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Central Standard

Kansas City Wine Vendor's Advice: Slurping Is Good

Sylvia Maria Gross

Wine merchant Ryan Sciara says “slurping” is the proper way to taste a wine.

Suck in some air to help move it to the different taste receptors in the mouth.

“You get acidity on the front, tannins in the back, and sweetness in the middle,” Sciara says.

And then he spits, so that he can function through the rest of the day.

Sciara, who opened Underdog Wine Co. in Crestwood Shops in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this year, developed a taste for wine as a small child, sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen.

“She always had this jug of wine,” Sciara says. “She used to stick her finger in there, and let me taste it.”

He learned more about wine as a college student working in the restaurant industry, first serving tables, bartending, then helping restaurants develop wine menus. Later, Sciara became a wine distributor.

He says now, as a wine shop owner, he doesn’t actually just sit around drinking wine all day. He is the sole employee of his 500-square-foot shop. He lugs boxes, stocks shelves, dusts, sweeps and takes out all the trash.

Sciara says he wants to form relationships with his customers, and help them find new wines they might like, without intimidating people when they first walk in.

He’s organized the shop in a way that he hopes helps customers help themselves, displaying bottles around the room according to color and intensity of body. Unlike most wine vendors, he puts the most expensive bottles on the bottom shelves, reserving the “top shelf” for the cheaper wines.

All of the wines in the shop, whether $10 or $100 bottles, are hand-picked, tasted and reviewed by Sciara.

He actually does taste a lot of wine, meeting with several distributors every day.

“A lot of times I taste wines that I don’t like, but it’s a way to keep me on top of my game,” Sciara says, “Less than 5 percent of the wines I taste I ever even bring into the store.”

That’s the only way to develop your palate, according to Sciara.

“Taste everything you possibly can, even if you think you’re not going to like it, taste it,” Sciara says.

Central Standard wineFood & Drink
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.