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A little favour….

Thank you so much for clicking through and offering your help with this fantastic opportunity we’ll be offering in May. We really appreciate you spending your time helping us.

So what’s the favour? 

All we ask is for you to comment below telling us the two things that you find most intimidating when buying and tasting wine. It can be either in a supermarket or in a restaurant setting.

Again, thank you so much. Your input will be invaluable for what we have planned for you all.

Crockers Tring

95 comments

French wine! I find French wine generally intimidating…… is it going to be a good one? Have I spent enough for it to be in any way tasty? It’s like rolling a dice!

White wine – while in most restaurants you’ll be blessed with a good selection of whites on the menu I’m terrified of buying white in a shop to drink at home. It’s just never as good at home… Is my fridge too cold? Is it psychological?? Is it that I only enjoy it with good food??

I totally get what you’re saying with here. Even after years of training I still struggle with ordering French wines. You shouldn’t really have to spend loads on any wine to get a good one. We’re doing our best to bring a good range to our lists that offer great value.

I never thought about the white wine thing like this but now reading this I realise I never buy white wine! I think subconsciously I feel that it’s easier to pick a half decent red than a white. Certainly food for thought. Most home fridges won’t be too cold but I also think in general we serve white wine too cold in this country. If you bring it up slightly you get so much more from it.

1. When tasting wine, being made to feel foolish if you ask a stupid question about the wine 2. When buying wine, the sheer volume of varieties of wine

Totally agree with you here Zahra. We do our best to take the pompous nature out of all our service especially the wine. There are no stupid questions at Crockers. We all started out as totally novices. Yep the volume in most shops is vast. I find that when I know a region and grape I like I try to find out similar alternatives either from the region or another country. A decent restaurant will be able to suggest something based on what you like.

1. The waiter/sommelier standing over you waiting for your response. 2. Doing the ‘right’ things when tasting the wine. PS I recently went to a restaurant, they advised on a particular wine but then bought a small amount over to try and left it with me to make a decision (and to drink it of course!). I hope that helps.

Hi Alison. I find there’s nothing worse than some guy in a suit watching over you while you look at the list. Yeah that’s a nice touch. We do that if people ask to try the wine. To be honest I usually say to guests if they don’t like a wine I’ll get them something else and I’ll drink the one they don’t like. We spend a good amount of time tasting our wines and have 100% confidence in them all. Hopefully you’ll enjoy some of them when we open in Tring haha!

The vast selection on offer is always intimidating. Understanding what grape/regions mean for flavour. Plus the vast range of cost. Good luck with your new venture, it’s very exciting x

100% agree with you here Lara. If that when you then add in the year as well it gets very tricky. I do find however that the new world wines tend to make it easier to figure out from their labels. The French wine labels are like cracking an enigma. I’ve had some very drinkable wine for £5 before and then some absolute junk for £15. It’s a minefield!

In supermarkets there is just too much choice and when you know little about wine you find yourself picking up the same things over and over again.
In a restaurant if ordering a bottle I feel embarrassed to order a house and can’t always afford the bottle I would like. That’s why I like wine pairing the job is done for me and it always works. The only down side I never remember what I’ve tried to enable me to then go and buy the wine myself. Only once have I been given a wine menu to take home.

Hi Sarah! I used to be guilty of buying the same all the time. I recently got into a routine of going to a region I don’t normally drink from and picking a wine I didn’t recognise. You should never be embarrassed to order the house. We actually recently put in a lot of time to taste several options for our house to ensure what we offer is great quality. Funny you should mention that, we’re going to be printing the wines on the menus each day in Tring.

You’re not alone there Cathie. Have you every through of doing a short course or joining a wine club to develop your knowledge?

Does expensive wine really taste better at every price point?

Is Rosé worth bothering with – or just a bad compromise?

Wow two great questions Andrew! thanks. I would be inclined to say no it doesn’t always taste better. I’ve had guests on our three course fine wine flight who then add in our cheese wine which ends up being their favourite. The cheese wine is our house red. Just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great wine. With rosé I would have said it’s just a bad compromise a few years ago. Having now had lots of training and tried several rosé’s they are a truly great drink in their own right. We’re going to have a few on the list in Tring as the weather starts to warm up.

A tricky situation there Darryl. Have you thought about doing a short wine course or joining a club? They’re a great way to learn with like minded people.

1. Feeling awkward about not buying the more expensive bottles
2. Confusion over the variety of choice.

It seems a common issue Scott. I would hope that most restaurants wouldn’t judge you on your wine selection or budget. I would say with both of them just ask some questions especially if there’s a sommelier around. They literally spend their life training so they can help guests meet their requirements.

I love great wine and love to try new wines in restaurants. I love it when a wine is something unique and fabulous that is not available in a supermarket (eg: Le Manoir does this very well) and really hate it when I am drinking something I recognise from a supermarket and it is wildly overpriced.

We try our best to offer something a little different. We use a lot of wines from unknown countries that actually produce some amazing wines. The best bit is that they tend to be cheaper and offer fantastic value for money. Ah the mark up on wines is a tricky subject.

Too much choice and variation in price
I love a personal recommendation from the staff at a restaurant or a wine shop.
Supermarkets tend to lead towards the offers which are not all they seem

I’ve certainly got lost down the rabbit hole with some rather large lists Louise. I think if somewhere has staff that are passionate about what they’re doing they can always lead you to the best wines on the list. Ah yes the supermarket offers, just don’t forget that they’re generally only their for the supermarkets benefit not ours.

In a restaurant, I find huge wine lists intimidating, particularly if they do not provide indications of grape and taste. I prefer to see a smaller selection with suggestions how the wine might complement the food. However the most intimidating thing is declaring that the wine is corked. I suspect many off bottles are drunk and charged for regardless.

I hate to say it but I agree with you here Jonathon. I think people need to be more relaxed about questioning the condition of a wine. It’s not a problem for the restaurant as they can generally just send it back to the supplier.

I buy from an online retailer, originally as part of a ‘wine club’. Recently they have been calling and asking for information about the type of wines, grapes and regions we like. My knowledge is very limited so I feel rather stupid! I’m sure if I put more energy in I could learn more but actually happy to try lots of things. So in general I am intimidated by having my lack of knowledge exposed particularly to someone who may be more knowledgeable and perhaps sneery!

This certainly seems to be the main issue for everyone Gwynneth. All I can say is you shouldn’t be embarrassed about you knowledge level with wine. It can be a very snobby world in wine but personally I just wouldn’t order from those types of people.

Feeling obliged to say it tastes nice even if it doesn’t and not being bold enough to try a new wine.

Ah I think this can be classed as being too British. We’re all guilty of just accepting what we get. I’ve caught a few people out saying it’s nice when they really don’t like it. Maybe you should push your boundaries and try something totally unknown next time?

Knowing which wine goes with which dish

Knowing if a more expensive wine will be better than a cheaper wine

You know what Clare I have actually steered guests away from our fine wine flight to the regular one. I think the difference may be lost unless you know a fair bit about wine. More money doesn’t always mean better and that’s where going of the beaten track can get you some amazing wines for a lot less. It all comes down to staff training in my opinion to be able to guide guests to great matches and also something a little different.

Hi Andy, thanks for your comment. We are currently working on a larger list with more range and a pre order list too. We have been getting a lot of more confident wine drinkers in so we feel it’s a good time to bring in some more well known, premium offerings. Hopefully there will be something tempting on the lists for you in Tring.

1. Knowing whether a higher price means better quality
2. Knowing if a wine is going off or just not very nice!

Trust me Matthew I’m yet to find a wine that’s not very nice haha! If it’s dull and musty send it back. If it’s weak and watery it’s just not a great wine in my opinion.

I don’t know if I necessarily find myself intimidated when selecting wine but what gets me so excited about tasting wine is completely down to who is taking you through the wine list whether thats the sommelier or wait staff. We’ve been to restaurants before where they don’t seem to have any time to talk to us or interest in doing so which can be quite intimidating as you’re too scared to ask questions or take up too much of their time, or where we’ve not felt confident in their knowledge. The best experiences we’ve had is when we’ve felt like we’re talking to a friend and getting a load of insider knowledge that no one else is getting, and they don’t mind us asking stupid questions – we love going off piste but often haven’t got a clue most of the time so getting guidance is crucial! I also love it when you can have a few samples before deciding, and that can be quite intimidating having to ask, but if samples are offered up without you feeling cheeky for asking then that takes away the awkwardness – its not like I want a load of free wine I just struggle with decision making! We are booked in for May already – can’t wait!

Awesome points here Daisy, thank you. It’s a crucial part of the experience to us to have the staff make guests feel relaxed and fully enjoy themselves. We’ll look forward to welcoming you in May and helping you try a little something different.

In a restaurant it’s definitely a long wine list which is not clearly laid out and which is hard to find anything you recognise!

Which brings me to my second point – feeling you always have to go with something you recognise because you don’t want to chance it with something new! Especially when there are no or few descriptions of unusual or less common wines. It’s like you are expected to magically know by the name alone what you will like!

By the way I think I also struggle with finding a white I enjoy at home…!

Ah yes at last someone else that feels like you suddenly need to magically be a wine expert! I couldn’t agree more Vicky. I think again it comes down to being more confident in asking for advice. If there restaurant has a sommelier it is their sole purpose to help you find a wine that you will enjoy. They should be so confident in their list that they won’t charge you if you don’t like a wine.

I don’t feel intimidated by the wine choice. However I really don’t know whether it will be good or not, and also what wine complements the menu I have chosen. The second frustration is that the price of wine tells you nothing, I have had gorgeous very reasonable wines and truly horrible very expensive wines.

Absolutely the price isn’t always a good indication. We actually had a white Rioja due to be a premium match on our list but when we tasted the day before the menu started it was awful. A greta example of an expensive wine that literally tasted of nothing! If a place does all wines by the glass then you should be able to ask for a taster.

It would really help when buying wine in a restaurant or a shop if there were decent tasting notes. They you’d know if the taste was one you would like.

Absolutely and I find the descriptions on the back of most bottles are so generic they tell you nothing. One of the things I like about Majestic is that they have great tasting notes available. You can certainly go for a grape variety you know and love but if it’s treated differently then you could end up in hot water.

For my wife the simple question is “will the white wine be too oaked”. Neither of us find asking questions about wine difficult but what is difficult is spending a lot of money on wine when eating out whether or not we are able to afford it. To this end we will usually choose more familiar wines from the cheaper end of the restaurant carte des vins. I am sure that you will be including a selection of reasonably priced wines that will nevertheless work well with your great food. Being led carefully away from the more familiar will probably do no harm either! All the best for Tring.

Thanks John. You certainly shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to have a great time. We are actually going to be putting the more familiar wines at the more expensive end of our list with some different offerings at the cheaper end. This is our way of encouraging our guests to try something new. Hopefully you can find something interesting if you join us in Tring.

1. Snobbery. This wine is expensive because it has a world famous name. I want to know if it is right for the moment/food.
2. Lack of character. Mass produced and mucked about to give anonymous consistency. I try and avoid these products, or at least buy them knowing the shortcomings.

You guys put so much effort, skill and discernment into the food and wine choices that the value for money stacks up every time.

I’ve been doing blind wine tasting sessions for a while now & it’s very satisfying when you introduce folks to favour a wine (that they would never normally choose) over one that they always default to. So my 2 things are: 1. Wine selection is too bamboozling & should be based on an individuals’ flavour preference rather than country or region. 2. Price isn’t everything in wine – there are some very good lower price point wines out there that usually get overlooked – so experiment a little!

Yes! Experimentation is the name of the game. I think good well trained staff are key to this so they can help guide guests to a nice alternative. I do also like the sound of blind tasting. I often do it with chardonnay if someone says they don’t like chardonnay.

It has never made much sense to me for a wine menu to be grouped by country – surely you want wines grouped by grape or taste, or even price: you want a certain flavour and are prepared to pay a certain price point – the country should be of lower concern……. picking the third cheapest French wine maybe the bluffers way to choose a table wine, but give us more credit!

I cannot drink red wine (get an immediate headache) and feel judged because I order white wine with something which should really go with red!
I don’t recognise all wines on a menu and might be missing out by not ordering them, however don’t want to risk something I don’t like – have been offered a tasting flight by an airline once and was great as I really liked a wine I would never have chosen!

I would like to think the snobbery of only certain foods go with red is coming to an end Sharon. It’s simple maths in my mind. Take food you love, add a wine you love and hey presto you have a more enjoyable experience. There are always alternatives available it’s just down to the staff to be able to think on their feet. We’ve had plenty of guests want a 100% white wine flight which can be tricky with things like beef but there’s always a way.

Unfortunately Jill the more affordable end of a menu tends to include things like Pinot Grigio which in our minds is just water. A good list should have a good selection of affordable options including everything by the glass. Again I think it just comes down to having the confidence to ask for a wine that’s to your liking.

I often find that restaurants have too many options on their wine list which makes choosing very difficult although I am very happy asking for help from the sommelier. You need to make sure that you tell them your maximum price though or you might get embarrassed!
I don’t normally buy from supermarkets unless they have special offers, 30% off etc. I tend to use Laithwaites & the Wine Society as they both offer excellent tasting notes which lead you to try wines you possibly wouldn’t pick up from a supermarket.
Looking forward to trying something different at Crockers!

We’ll look forward to introducing you to something a little different Sarah. Sounds like you’re all over it though, it is tricky if guests don’t tell you their budget.

Hi Luke – for me it’s:

1 in restaurants (and buying retail) getting clear info on good food matches for wine
2 related to the above – being recommended interesting/different food/wine matches.

I was a wine merchant in the past and agree with all the comments above. But it is possible to de-mystify wine and not make people feel patronised (you guys don’t do that at all obviously!)

Thanks Tom, we do our best to make guests feel at ease. There’s far too much phaff around food and drink and we’re doing our best to remove it!

Getting the right wine for food flavours and the confusion of can you have a red wine with white meat or fish.

Also is Germany doing decent wines these days I avoid buying German because of the reputation they have – it must have changed in the 30+ years I’ve been quaffing the grape juice

haha I like this one Kim! Yes Germany is doing some lovely drops now. We’ve had a great Gerwurztraminer on the list recently. There are plenty of great, light bodied reds that go with fish but don’t forget to look at the garnish on the dish for guidance too. Scott does some great fish dishes with earthy garnish like mushroom. A clear winner for me is something like a Pinot Noir. Nice and light for the fish but has earthy notes including truffle that work with the garnish.

1. This is intimidating. Will I sound like a numpty. Will my points not be nuanced or sophisticated.

2. Understanding the grape better against my palate. Why I go for certain reds in certain situations, so I can maximise taste in my price range given the situation.

Thanks
Karl

Karl you’re lucky this is a public board haha! I find it depends what mood I’m in as to what grape I go for. Sometimes I like a big juicy red and other times it’s all about something light.

Hi guys,

I run a local informal wine club and every time the committee meet we talk about what tastings to offer our members, we always want to push the boundaries from the ‘normal’ wine producing nations and put something out there that’s ‘new’ or different but changing peoples opinions and pre conceived views is so hard. However, those that do try something really can have their eyes opened. These producers need support and promotion and as well as offering great value they can be amazing wines.

Your wine pairing can make the most of this! Good luck!

Awesome points James. I’ve had guests minds blown to pieces by something a little different. It’s such a good feeling when you introduce them to something new. We used to have a Sicilian red that was a real game changer.

Maybe a “if you like that, try this” suggestion would be a nice way to help people branch out and try wines from unfamiliar regions, or made with unusual grape, that otherwise might get overlooked. With a pronounciation guide!

Suggestions of which wines might go well with which dishes is always very welcome, and another good way to explore.

Ah yes a pronunciation guide would be great! I think I need it most months. I like the idea though Martin thanks for you comments!

2 things I hate are huge wine lists. (Wine bibles) it’s hard enough to know what to choose without 1000 bottles to choose from.

Secondly. I hate wine tasting before pouring. Does anyone really do this knowing what to do or like me do you do it because you think you have to and it’s the done thing? Honestly. Little swish, sniff and drink. Yep it’s fine. Wouldn’t know what it would taste like if it wasn’t.

I do love tasting menus with wine pairings. Let’s take the stress out of it. Here is a wine that goes great with what we know you are eating. Maybe a cheap, middle and top end for each course.

Trust me Martin, we can’t even afford to hold 100 different wines. I think the whole tasting thing is important and I even encourage it with a crew cap. It gives the guest a chance to taste the wine and say if they don’t like it, it’s not just about if the wine if corked for me. If I pour a splash from the bottle and they don’t like it I can still use that bottle to serve by the glass and offer them something else. I like this idea of the three options on a tasting wine package.

I believe a good restaurant these days will always serve a good house wine, trust the restaurant , trust the wine, my theory…. you can only serve cr*p once. However when something more special is required, trust the recommendation of whoever picked the house wine. !!

I heard a great saying once Jim, “you only have a bad meal once” which kind of applies here. If you have abad experience you probably won’t go back and the same goes for the wine. We work hard to ensure that our wine list is well thought out and covers all bases.

1. When buying white wine, it would be useful to know what temperature the wine should be served at and what temperature the wine your serving is.
2. When buying white or red wine, describe what you should experience, i.e. this is a rich and velvety wine with hints of vanilla. That way you’ll be able to judge/discuss your own experience.

Great points Paul. The temperature of white wine is a big point. I think most people serve it too cold and just need a little more confidence to serve it slightly warmer. This allows it really open up. Tasting notes can be a bit tricky sometimes. If someone doesn’t taste what’s on the notes they can sometimes feel they’re not very good at tasting wine. Wine is such a personal experience, I often don’t get what’s on our sommeliers tasting notes.

Hi – I find an overly long wine list, offering only a couple of affordable wines quite intimidating.
I love coming across a really good House Wine, which I’m not hugely familiar with, and then adding it to the wines we like to drink at home.
A snooty sommelier is also an intimidating sight, and enough to put you off your dinner. The right one though can make the night!

Hey Jenny, I’ve been put off a meal more than once by a snooty sommelier. We’re all here to make our guests have a great experience so I don’t know why they sometimes feel the need to be like that. Ah yes the house wine is so often over looked but it’s a great way to offer some fantastic value.

Picking wine in a restaurant – feeling pressure to order a more expensive wine than you would ordinarily without actually knowing if it’s any “better” or worth the cost. Maybe some more comparison to what you might drink at home might be useful.

Secondly knowing I’ve youre pairing a wine properly with the food you’re ordering. Usually you order wine first before food in a restaurant, but really it should be the other way round with the guidance of the sommelier!

I have learnt that it’s all about personal preference, you may not like a wine someone else says is good and vice versa – I don’t feel intimidated buying it, but often Jacki (who doesn’t drink) buys my wine and have enjoyed some which I never would have picked myself! She buys on price and I can often be surprised (good and bad) when I open it

That’s the beauty of food and drink Rob it’s all a personal experience. That is brave however having someone that doesn’t drink pick your wines for you haha!

I don’t like some one standing over me while I choose or being advised to buy the most expen sive wine on the list!

Absolutely agree Jenny. Nothing worse than feeling pressure. We all go out for a great time and to relax you certainly shouldn’t feel uncomfortable.

Being presented with a ‘tome’ style wine list can be a little intimidating, and although I love having a good old nose, I usually tend to choose something familiar. However, I prefer a smaller but adventurous list with succinct tasting notes, and recommendations to accompany dishes on the menu. Being able to have a ‘taste before you select & buy option’ would also be appreciated in a restaurant.

I love this idea of having the matched dishes on the wine list. Quite a few people have suggested it now and I think it’s something we can look at implementing.

I find that the most intimidating thing is getting an admission that a bottle is poor, not bad. Many French and some Spanish reds have one in two dozen ‘duff’ and that I find is across all price ranges.

I know what you mean John. I don’t even question it, if the guests questions the bottle I’ll open another straight away

I’m a very strict vegetarian, and often feel like I couldn’t possibly enjoy wine ‘properly’ when I don’t eat meat or fish, let alone know anything about it! I’m actually really interested in wine and love a good drop, but often feel nervous about asking two things:
1) “Which wine would you recommended with X vegetarian dish?” (Similarly, I’m not a fan of the disdainful looks I get when ordering a heavy red to accompany a veggie dish….who wrote those ‘rules’?)
2) “Is this wine vegetarian?” I’m really disappointed by how few retailers/restaurateurs realise that not all wines are suitable for veggies/ vegans because they contain animal-derived products like isinglass, gelatin, casein or albumen. I really appreciate those shops and eateries who label their wines as veggie- friendly or not, it’s so helpful. (Same with cheese, but that’s another moan!)

It’s a shame you feel like that Jen. We do our very best to offer great matches to the vegetarian dishes Scott cooks. I have to admit that I didn’t know about vegetarian wine and cheese until I started working with Scott. His wife is a strict vegetarian so I’ve learnt a lot. Unfortunately it’s just not something you’re taught in the industry as a standard.

You’ll never get a black look from us for ordering a big red, they’re our favourites!

Not only is there normally too much choice, but having a bad memory means that I can rarely recall the details of a ‘new discovery’ so I have to resort to picking an old favorite. I love it when restaurants match wine to their food, so this enhanced our recent visit to Crocker’s.

Hi Luke – I was telling Ian about your wine question and we talked about how we felt about choosing wine. Ian’s way more knowledgeable about wine but I think we both feel the “judgment” issue from the sommelier (perceived or actual!) is definitely an issue and adds pressure to what should be an enjoyable experience!

But we thought of you this weekend when we were away for a sneaky weekend without the kids in Venice staying at a beautiful hotel as only Venice can put on. We ate out and as far away from the tourist area as we could, finding ourselves in a little wine shop run by a very friendly guy who was passionate about wine, supporting biodynamic producers and lesser known brands. All served with a board covered in the most incredible meats and cheeses. Very relaxed, very informal and very delicious!

In great contrast we ate in the hotel on the Saturday (the Gritti Palace) where dinner is a dress up, fancy affair and the bill matches! But it was a truly excellent meal and everything that’s good about Italy (which surprised us as Venice isn’t known for its excellent cuisine in comparison to other areas). But somewhat predictably the wine list was about 3 inches thick and endless lists of wines, mostly Italian, by region many of which we didn’t really know. To be fair, after a bit of discussion, the sommelier recommended a really delicious wine (although really not a great price!) and he was reasonably easy to talk to although there was a definite hint of an eye roll when I told him I didn’t want a heavy red with my beef main course! But if he hadn’t been a good steer, we would have drowned in that wine list.

Looking forward to heading Tring way and meeting your new team – I expect some suitably random wines to be on your list as in Potten End. Love a surprise especially if it’s from somewhere I’ve never considered for wine before. Best of luck with the grand opening!

Thanks Claire! Sounds like quite the experience you had there. Hopefully you’ll love what we have on offer in Tring, we tasted a really odd one yesterday that’s definitely going on the list.

Oh and another thought – don’t know if any of your other guests get this but some wines really set off my sinuses (!!) and I think it’s heavy sulphates and tannins. Doesn’t matter if it’s red or white but quite often if it’s really bad, I can lose all my sense of taste which kind of ruins a meal. Have you ever come across this? I’m not allergic to anything so it’s an odd one!

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