Malcolm Jolley gets wine help online from Noble’s Joe Alberti…

Sommelier Carolyn Balogh fields customer questions and offers professional advice at

I don’t think I had ever come across the term “hand sell” until I started covering the wine trade. A “hand sell wine” is a wine that a customer might not choose on their own, but could be persuaded to with help from a professional; presumably to everyone’s benefit. The term is also used, and might have originated from, the book business. Like a new book, it’s hard to tell if one is going to enjoy a wine one hasn’t tried. The sommelier’s job is to try and help the customer make as good an educated guess as possible, often by cross referencing wines the customer is familiar with: if you like unoaked Chardonnay, you might also like Arneis. The absence of restaurants in our lives lately has underscored how important the hand sell is to introducing consumers to new wines. Restaurants, under the supervision of trusted professionals, are where we could try new things, but how do we do that now when so much of our wine buying is online? Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, which like so many other Ontario wine agencies has pivoted their restaurant sales to direct to consumers sales through their website, has come up with a novel answer to the question. Noble is offering live consultations with a rotating roster of their wine pros, including old hand Joe Alberti. I caught-up with Joe this week, as their virtual sommelier service got up and running, to find out more about how it all works and how it compares to restaurant service. I recorded our conversation for the video interview below.

Email versions of this post may not display video. Click here to see the video at GFR.