As a sommelier I have to walk a fine line between between helpful and being percieved as a smart-ass know-it-all. ( I would like to state here that I have never, nor would ever claim to know it all. It really scares me how little I do know in the grand scale of things.)People get scared when they see me approach them. They think (again wrongly) that Im going to try and sell them that monster £5000 grand bottle they saw on the wine-list. Or that Im going to lord it over them making them look stupid in front of their dining companion(s). If I ever do any of the above please feel free to slap me!
I often find myself confronted with the dilemma of when to correct peoples misconceptions or enlighten their ignorance. When somebody tells me they dont like chardonnay then goes and orders a chablis, what am I supposed to do? Personally I feel obliged to point out to them somehow, that what they are really trying to say is that they dont like oaked chardonnay. Its a tricky thing to do without sounding patronising or being condescending. But I must point it out to them, if for no other reason than to allow them the opportunity to expand their knowledge of wine and try new things. After many years doing this, I think that I have managed to do it now without offending anyone, without being patronising, and without ever being condescending. And for the most part, people are happier that they now know a little bit more about wine, and feel that little bit more confidant when ordering wine in a restaurant.
See we not only provide food and wine, but education too. Isnt it a wonderful experience.