Proper Wine Presentation
- JesseLou Jul 1, 2002 02:06 PM
With all the controversy going on about wine scams and Hector's $200 bottle of wine I thought I'd bring up my own wine rant.
I have yet to have a bottle of wine properly presented to me in NYC. Meaning, the waiter should keep the label facing the table at all times, never turn the bottle, never set it on the table. Essentially the hand holding the wine should not change position during the whole presenting/opening process. The other hand does all the work. The mouth of the bottle should be wiped twice with a clean cloth - once after the foil or wax is removed and once after the cork has been removed. The waiter should clearly read the vintage, vineyard, variety and of course, give a taste to the person who ordered the wine.
This tradition got started back in the day when if you didn't keep a keen eye on the wine it may have been switched from something else. Sounds like this is still going on today! (The wiping was to prevent mold from getting into the wine - something that's not really an issue now.)
I'm from cowtown Denver and if several of the fine dining restaurants there can manage to do it (granted there are only about 15 of them), then how come no one here can? Even places like Bouley Bakery and Gramercy Tavern didn't get it right.
Wine is an expensive and special part of a nice meal. Obviously with all the problems lately restaurants should give more importance to proper wine presentation. And diners should expect them to.
You are talking about the proper FORM of presenting the bottle. In Hector's situation we are talking about the PURPOSE that presenting the bottle serves.
Whether the check for the meal is presented on a tray with a mint or in a leather folder is immaterial to the purpose it serves in his situation: your opportunity to confirm that you are being charged for what you were served. The same is true with the presentation of the bottle.
I understand and respect your comments about form. But this is just about absolute basic presentation to ensure that both the restaurant and the diner have exactly the bottle which was ordered. If the correct style is overlooked, well, that is an oversight which, in part, can be explained by the restaurant that the wine is being served in. Form, which is important, is not the priority. Confirmation of the correct bottle is.
I really do agree with you, probably more than you can imagine. My wife and I were at Il Desco, a Michelin two star in Verona, and I ordered a bottle of '97 Solaia which, then ('fall of 2000) was about 220,000 lira.
The waiter presented the bottle with the label turned partially to the side and, after presenting me the cork and pouring a small amount in a fairly small wine glass, stood back waiting for my response. I asked him in English to decant the bottle but only after showing it to me again where I could read the whole label. I also asked for larger glasses.
He acted like I was intruding on him, when, for what ammounted to an excellent bottle of wine in one of Italy's best restaurants, he was giving me among the worst wine service I had ever had in my life.
My actions weren't about snobbishnish on my part but about form in a setting where form was absolutely essential. I also know that proper wine service including that which you describe is absolutely essential for Michelin recognition.
I should note that my wife and I were the only Americans in the restaurant that evening. No, I don't think we had an attitude. In fact we had really said or done almost nothing before the wine was served, even ordering a tasting menu rather than individual courses.
Anyway, I do understand and sometimes form really, truly matters.