It's a big world of wine out there these days. Real big. Wines from small regions and small producers are abundantly available. But how do you know that the shop salesperson or sommelier you are talking to is as knowledgeable about Savagnin as they are about Savigny? Or Shiraz?
Well, you don't. In fact, they probably aren't equally knowledgeable across the board. Most folks these days tend to, if not specialize, at least follow their current interests. It is extremely hard, and expensive, to keep abreast of the entire world of wine. In fact, it may not really be feasible anymore at all.
So how do you know who you are speaking with? Is the sommelier at a particular venue big on Burgundy or on Barolo? Do they spend time drinking wine from Rioja or from the Red Hills? Well, there are a couple of ways that that answer could become known. Like for instance we could follow the television model and have IRON SOMMELIER BAROSSA and IRON SOMMELIER BRUNELLO designations. But just as it is likely that a sommelier doesn't follow all regions, it is also true that they probably do follow more than just one.
So I propose merit badges. Or ribbons.
These are the ribbons that were worn by General George S. Patton. I had thought Patton was a big Bordeaux guy, but it turns out he had a real love of Burgundy, as I would be able to tell if these ribbons represented wine accomplishments instead of military advancement.
Think about it. You've tasted a Chablis from each of the Grand Crus? Here's your ribbon. You've done a vertical of Calon-Segur back to 1975? Here's that ribbon. You've visited Liguria? Hey, I've got a ribbon for you!
Then at least you'd look at your sommelier and see where they were coming from. Hmm, looks like this person really focuses on France, or on Spain, or Greece. You'd know.
Well, I mean, you'd know if you could decipher what all those ribbons meant. Uh-oh.