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Reasons to reject a bottle

[[ Note: This thread was split from a discussion of how a second same bottle should be presented in a restaurant: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... -- The Chowhound Team ]]

There are dozens of reasons why one bottle of wine may vary from another bottle of the very same wine. As you say, variation in and of itself is not automatically a bad thing, and should not automatically lead to rejection.

That said, there are plenty of reasons to reject a bottle, but "I don't like it" isn't one of them.

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  1. It would be good to expand on this in a separate thread, as many folk are unconscious of, or oblivious to valid reasons for rejecting a bottle of wine in a restaurant. As you so well state, “I don’t like it,” is only valid if the waitperson/sommelier has made a recommendation of a wine to go with X. This should be based on some discussion between the restaurant staff and the diner. If the suggestion is NOT a good one, in that one circumstance, could one logically reject a bottle. Were I the sommelier, I’d ask myself some questions (in private, and not in front of the client) and then try to come up with something else on my list to please them. At this point, I’d ask more questions, than make suggestions. Too many diners think that they can return a bottle, just because they made a wrong choice - it should not be so!

    If I encounter a bad bottle (for whatever reason, but TCA is #1), and I reject it, what I want is a replacement bottle of THAT wine. I’ve had a few haughty sommeliers who bothered to ask, “ and what would you like this replaced with?” The answer should be obvious - the same wine, but a good bottle. I usually whisper this, but maybe it should be stated loud enough for the rest of the diners to hear. However, in these instances, the choice was mine. This was the wine that I ordered, but THIS bottle was bad and needs to be replaced. Heck, they’ll get credit from their supplier, who will get credit from the producer, so it’s not that big a deal - it happens. It happens between 4 - 10% of the time, depending on which source you choose to look at. My rough estimate from my cellar is about 5%, but then there are the older wines, that may, one day, give me a bad surprise.

    If I order a bottle of wine, without the staff’s suggestion, and I do not like it, it’s mine, unless there is a flaw in that wine! No if’s, and’s or but’s - it’s mine.

    I ordered a btl. of Cal Cab from a producer, who did both a Chard and a Cab from the same-named property. The sommelier brought the Chard, showed me the bottle (I was in deep conversation and just looked at the label and NOT at the bottle). I waved OK. He opened it, and poured me a taste - “hey, this is white,” I thought. “But I ordered the Cab... “ It was all my mistake and I was given the opportunity to catch the mistake from the cellar. I insisted that the table keep the Chard, but that he bring the Cab. The mistake was mine. Yes, he brought the wrong wine, maybe because of the noise level of the restaurant, but he “presented” the bottle to me, and I just blew it all off, and said OK. My mistake - my purchase. He tried to talk me out of it, but I would not hear of it. Besides, this Chard was a good one, and there were a few “white only” drinkers at the table, AND the Bâtard-Montrachet was almost out. I know full well the difference between a Chard bottle and a Cab bottle and I just missed it. Too bad for me.

    Thanks for bringing up the point, as I feel too many people have a very bad misunderstanding of what is proper, regarding sending a bottle back.

    As stated above, poor storage, and not TCA, is a good reason to reject a bottle. This is another chance to ask for a replacement of THAT bottle. Considering the volume of a single wine, that a restaurant is likely to purchase, poor storage should be an almost insignificant factor - though not unheard of. As for bottle variations, most are so sublime that only an A-B comparison will likely point it out. Though, think about it. If one bottle came from the start of the bottling, and another came near the end, then it is likely that they might be different. However, most bottling lines fill cases in order, so this will not happen too often - only when different cases are cellared. TCA, OTOH, is likely to affect one bottle out of a case.

    Hunt

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      One caveat regarding the sommelier showing the bottle: don't just LOOK but also TOUCH it. It's amazing how many (even high brow) places keep their bottles not just at room temperature, but even worst, in high shelves immersed in the heat of the dining room. I've even seen them next to the kitchen. And definitely no, if it's too hot, it'll be useless to get an ice bucket...

      1. re: RicRios

        Good point. I find that I choose a bucket of ice more for my reds, than for my whites. The old adage of "room temp" was coined in Europe, where "room temp" was just above what a good cellar would be. I find that too many whites are served in restaurants at ~45F, which is much too cold - then they want to plunge it into ice water!

        Thanks for mentioning the temp.

        Hunt

        1. re: RicRios

          So if it is too warm, icing it won't help? How come?

          1. re: troutpoint

            If they kept it at, say, 75-80F or thereabouts for quite a long time, it'll be "cooked", gone. Probably not vinegary to the point you can ostensibly return it, but dead, no flavors, no fruit. Icing will lower the temperature, but it won't bring life back.

            1. re: RicRios

              Oh. I get it. I thought that you meant that bringing the temperature down was't acceptable. (Assuming that it had been stored properly) I understand now.

              Thank you for your concise and informative answer. And for not making me feel stupid.... :)

        2. re: Bill Hunt

          The mixup is why I always state out loud the year, varietal, and winery when I'm serving wine at the restaurant... there have been a couple of times when someone gives me the bin number, I forget which is which, and I bring them the Pinot Grigio instead of the Pinot Noir they ordered.

        3. My wife, her sister (both Belgian) and I (American) ate at Le Siphon in Damme, Belgium for dinner about two years ago. Le Siphon can be best described as an ancient NYC steak-house in ambiance, but one that specializes in eel in green sauce, among other esoteric items.

          From the extensive wine list we ordered a bottle of Montrachet (Chassangne?) and all agreed it was corked. We ordered another one. Again, corked. A third, corked. We all have decent (or experienced) palates, but at this point I was getting a little concerned it was we that were off. The sommeleir removed each bottle with out a word that I recall.

          As we decided what to do next, I noticed the owner, an older, intimidating man, speaking with the (now undertandably agitated) sommelier and gesturing towards our table. He was soon on his way over. I began to slide down in my chair as the ladies stood their ground. After a quick (indecipherable) converstation in Flemmish, the owner (much to my consternation) retrieved all three rejected bottles. Tasting them in a row he pronounced each one off. He then opened a forth- off. The fifth, alas, we all pronounced to be right on, the difference in quality quite obvious in the end.

          Had I not been with natives at the time, I probably would not have been so bold as to send back multiple bottles, but it does go to show that whole cases can be spoiled and to be ready to stick to your guns.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tbear

            A bad batch of corks is a bad batch of corks, and you can have one bottle in a case be tainted, or -- theoretically -- all 12.

            I've never had an experience such as yours -- four in row! I have had two corked wines in a row, at which point the sommelier asked if I wouldn't prefer to try a different wine. He agreed the two bottles were corked, and I think he was a bit more fearful of a third bottle than I.

            Congratulations for sticking to your guns! That must have been difficult (at best!).

          2. So, for those of us not as experienced with wine, what should we look for? I agree you shouldn't send back a bottle just because you don't like it, or you made a bad choice, but how do you truly know if a bottle has gone "bad". Also at a wine shop for that matter, for those of us who only buy one bottle of a type at a time and wouldn't know any better if it was an off bottle.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greenyellow

              Let's put it this way: it's like dating.
              First few times around it's hit or miss, but later on you start getting the knack of it...

              1. re: greenyellow

                Because TCA-contamination is probably #1 (too hot on the storage conditions #2) and different folk have a different level of sensitivity to TCA, it can be difficult. When ever I encounter a "corked" bottle in one of my dinners (not out at a restaurant), I'll give little pours of the off-wine, for others to taste, and we'll discuss the components. The best way to learn about "corked" wine, is, unfortunately, to experience it. If one can try a corked bottle, next to a good bottle, of the same wine, the differences are usually very clear.

                To tbear: wow, I've never had anything like your experience. I've had four bad ones, at an event, where probably 10 cases of Merlot were being poured, but never, fortunately, four in a row (five, if you count the owner's experience) at a restaurant! Thanks for sharing that event. Glad that the owner stepped-up and did the right thing - great service!

                Hunt

                Hunt

              2. if a wine has gone off, there are several ways to tell, depending on its malady. it may smell moldy or like wet cardboard. it may smell like vinegar or sour. it may smell like nothing at all.

                sensitivity to tca does vary widely, and i tend to whiff it out much moreso than others. if you're unsure, ask the sommelier. they should take it back politely.

                to bill hunt: not every guest wants to bother trying a 2nd bottle if the 1st was bad. some seem to think the whole lot must be flawed. i do try to ask the question in as nuetral a way as possible to feel them out.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Unlike an earlier poster, with 4-5 bad bottles of the same wine, I have yet to encounter (knocking on wood here) two at the same sitting, that were corked. Considering the industry's guess of 4-10%, it is certainly possible, within the same case. In my cited case, the Shafer Red Shoulders Ranch Chard, was the wine, that I wanted. One of the guests (a candidate's wife) had expressed a love for bit, bold, CA Chardonnays, so that was my choice, even though many at the table were having a Corton-Charlamagne. In this particular case, the sommelier was from the UK and spoke with a decided, to my ears, British accent. When confronted with the corked bottle of CA-Chard, asked, in an affected French accent, "and JUST what would MONSIEUR like INSTEAD?" My whispered answer was, "the same wine, but not a corked one." I offered a taste to him, especially as his tastevin was prominently displayed, around his neck. He snatched the bottle from the table, and muttered, "zee chef will just cook with this." My comment stopped him in his tracks, "if chef xxx xxx is still at the helm he will not, and if he's not here, I do not want the sous-chef using THIS for any of my guests." By now, my voice was rising, and a waitperson came over and whispered, "chef xxx xxx is no longer with us, but our new chef yyy yyy will NOT use bad wine to cook with."

                  Had this server not copped an attitude (especially an affected one, repleat with a faked French accent) with me, regarding the wine, I would probably not have recalled the event. The wine would have been replaced and nothing more would have been said.

                  I agree that the question is a valid one, and thank you for bringing that fact to my attention. Were I in the role of wine steward, I would probably ask the same question, but in a proper tone. Also, with my sensitivity to TCA, just opening the bottle, would have alerted me to the problem. I've stopped servers, headed to other tables, and pointed out that a glass on their tray was corked, and that they should head back to the bar, before delivering it. Corked wine is a fact of life, Stelvin/similar not withstanding, and servers should be aware of it. OTOH, clients should be aware of THEIR responsibility, when ordering a bottle, or more, of wine. I've had server's recs., that just didn't suit my palate, but always tried to find the "match" with the dish, and kept the wine. I've rejected a few bottles, when the rec. was way, way out in left-field, and rejected a couple dozen, or so, that were bad - usually corked, though a few were definitely "maderized," or heavily oxidized.

                  Hunt

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Actually there has been some studies that show TCA breaks down with heat, and it's quite common for restaurants to cook with "corked" wine. Never done it myself, so I don't know if it works or not (i.e.: the taint disappears with heat).

                    1. re: zin1953

                      >>Never done it myself, so I don't know if it works or not (i.e.: the taint disappears with heat).<<

                      Neither have I (can't imagine cooking with something that vile) but the indefatigable Sue Courtney has and reports that it works. Must try this sometime, but only when I have a fallback handy.
                      http://www.wineoftheweek.com/stories/...

                      1. re: zin1953

                        TCA, what an interesting substance. In several discussions with winemakers, many are of the opinion that heat, i.e. poor storage, actually contributes to the degree of TCA. This was one theory to account for more incidents of it in wines in Arizona vs Colorado. My general experience went from about 4% to 10%, when I moved south. Since I am not a chemist, I do not know. It might well be that I was experiencing more, because I was drinking more, and I did not keep an exact count of returned bottles, but it was getting to be about one/month, or even more often, while it was one/six months in a cooler clime.

                        As for cooking with TCA contaminated wine, I'll have to give it a go. I have a bottle of Chassange-Montrachet, that I plan on returning to the retailer in CA. Maybe I'll try a sauce with it instead and see what happens.

                        BTW, I have NEVER had any problem with a retailer taking back a bottle, especially if I had the invoice. That said, I'd dread having some of my older reds being tainted, as those receipts are long gone, though I do have the retailer in the database.

                        Thanks for the observation,
                        Hunt

                  2. I'm not trying to be a troll here, but why can't one reject a wine simply because one doesn't like it?

                    Don't get me wrong; I don't regularly do this, but I can't know how every wine on a list tastes. It seems to me that it is a restaurant's responsibility to be sure that they have chosen well made wines and stored them properly.

                    The reason for my post occured a couple of years ago at one of the better restaurants in the small city in which I live. Most of the whites listed were chardonnays - and the usual suspects at that. But one viognier was on the list and we ordered it. When the server poured the taste, I immediately did not like it. The wine lacked the perfume I associate with the varietal and was mostly lifeless largely flavorless white swill. Perhaps it was slightly corked (but it did have an artificial cork - if memory serves) or maybe it had not been properly stored, but my main response was that I didn't much like it.

                    Nonetheless I suffered through the bottle, but ever since I've wished I had just said that I didn't like it, and wanted to try a different wine. Why would it be so wrong to say that the wine for whatever reasons didn't meet my standards, and send it back? Are we as wine drinkers supposed to be expert at every wine that might be on a list?

                    ed

                    39 Replies
                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                      Hey Ed...
                      You returned a flavorless, lusterless wine. A viognier with these qualities has quite probably begun to go off. You didn't like the wine but probably because the wine was bad. Not simply because you didn't like it. In this instance I would have called over the server or sommelier and offered them a taste and explain what you expected from the wine. It is very likely that they would have agrred with you and taken the bottle back.

                      If, on the other hand, you ordered a viognier and usually only drank rieslings and returned it because it wasn't what you usually drink (and enjoy) than the onus is on you to accept the wine. UNLESS the server/sommelier gave you inaccuraute info concerning the flavor of the wine. In that case return it and find something else.

                      1. re: kimmer1850

                        most american viogniers are awful--clumsy and overly oaked. but yours sounds like it was a bad bottle.

                        a polite query to the server or manager (doesn't sound like the place has a sommelier) along the lines of, "this wine seems very flat. i think it's flawed. can we try something else?" likely would have worked. it's non-confrontational and puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the wine.

                        i've had guests order stuff on their own, and say, "this isn't what i expected," even though the wine is perfectly sound. i take it back, but it's a situation easily avoided. if i recommend something they don't like, i take it back in a heartbeat.

                      2. re: Ed Dibble

                        "I'm not trying to be a troll here, but why can't one reject a wine simply because one doesn't like it?"

                        Well for, among other reasons, the law. But legal issues aside, who is the one who made the selection? You?

                        Keep in mind the business axiom, "The customer is always right." Some restaurants -- and retailers, for that matter -- will accept returns simply because you didn't like it, but it's not legally permitted. Niether, generally, are cash refunds or buying on consignment, but people do it.

                        IF the bottle is flawed, the restaurant (or retailer) can return the bottle for credit. If you merely don't like it, they're stuck with it, so . . . are they going to use that $150 bottle of Corton-Charlemagne for cooking? Well, no -- probably the owner, manager, chef and sommelier will drink it after you and everyone else has left for the evening, and take the hit to their bottom line.

                        * * * * *

                        "Don't get me wrong; I don't regularly do this, but I can't know how every wine on a list tastes. It seems to me that it is a restaurant's responsibility to be sure that they have chosen well made wines and stored them properly."

                        It is, but . . .

                        "The reason for my post occured a couple of years ago at one of the better restaurants in the small city in which I live. Most of the whites listed were chardonnays - and the usual suspects at that. But one viognier was on the list and we ordered it. When the server poured the taste, I immediately did not like it. The wine lacked the perfume I associate with the varietal and was mostly lifeless largely flavorless white swill. Perhaps it was slightly corked (but it did have an artificial cork - if memory serves) or maybe it had not been properly stored, but my main response was that I didn't much like it."

                        The key to Viognier is, generally, its aromatics. There are, however, plenty of poor Viogniers in California.

                        That said, I would have probably returned it claiming it was flawed . . . well, I wouldn't have ordered a Viognier in the first place I hadn't already had (for precisely this problem/reason), BUT -- I'd probably call the sommelier over and have him/her taste it and either get another bottle or something else.

                        * * * * *

                        "Nonetheless I suffered through the bottle, but ever since I've wished I had just said that I didn't like it, and wanted to try a different wine. Why would it be so wrong to say that the wine for whatever reasons didn't meet my standards, and send it back? Are we as wine drinkers supposed to be expert at every wine that might be on a list?"

                        Here's the difference.

                        Were it a Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, etc., etc., etc. I would NOT do what I suggested above. I would have kept the bottle and "suffered" through it. (In fact, off the top of my head, I can't think of any other grape I would do that with other than Viognier)

                        No, you are not supposed to be a wine expert. But you are supposed to EITHER know a little something about what you're ordering OR ask for help/advice from the sommelier.

                        For example, if I order a Chenin Blanc and expecting it to be dry, and it has residual sugar, who's fault is that? Mine. OTOH, if I ask the sommelier if that Chenin is dry and s/he says yes, but it arrives with r.s. -- I'm sending it back! (Not my mistake. Theirs!)

                        1. re: zin1953

                          If I ordered a Condrieu or Château-Grillet in a restaurant and it lacked the characteristic viognier aroma, I would conclude that the wine had been damaged in shipping (e.g. unrefrigerated container left on the dock for a month during the summer) and send it back.

                          That's such a common problem with dry European whites that I would usually ask the sommelier about it when ordering.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Is it common for people to experiment with $150 bottles of wine at restaurants? I thought people did their tasting at home with store bought wines that dont have the 300% mark-up.

                              1. re: tom porc

                                is it common for people to experiment with wines in restuarants? Yes. With $150 bottles of wine? No. (Not in my experience.)

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Don't assume the 300% markup. I take advantage of a very good wine list and special offers by the restaurant (such as 1/3 off nights) to occasionally splurge and try something different. I recently shared a bottle of a very different 2001 Gravner Ribolla Gialla Venezia-Giulia Anfora that was unlike anything I have ever had before, and it was well worth the >$100 experiment.

                                  1. re: dinwiddie

                                    I don't presume that at all. As I said elsewhere, I used to run the wine program at a restaurant where our wine list was "Retail + $5."

                                2. re: tom porc

                                  Sure. If I buy a $75 bottle of Chablis, age it for ten years, and it's corked, I'm out $75. If I order the same bottle in a restaurant for $150, it costs me nothing.

                                  Also, markup is sometimes more reasonable on more expensive wines than on cheap ones, and some restaurants aren't very aggressive about raising prices on older bottles in their cellars.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    What an interesting (and right on) perspective.

                            2. re: zin1953

                              The law? There is some law that says that a restaurant can't replace a bottle of wine that the customer doesn't like?

                              If I did order a $150 wine and truly did not like it, I sure as hell would request another. For that amount of money, the wine ought to taste good. If it doesn't, then there is a serious problem with something.

                              Again, don't misunderstand me; I have liked almost every bottle of wine I have gotten in a restaurant. I also know what I'm ordering - I've been drinking wine for over 40 years. All I'm saying is that if I am served a wine that I do not like, I don't feel like it is my responsibility to diagnose the problem.

                              ed

                              1. re: Ed Dibble

                                Laws governing wine vary from state to state, thanks to the joys of the Congress punting the 21st amendment.

                                That said, in California, the only LEGAL reasons to accept returns of opened bottles of wine from a consumer by a licensed establishment (i.e.: retail store or restaurant) are because the wine was bad. Bad meaning flawed, such as corked, oxidized, spoiled in some way, etc. "I didn't like it" is not one of them.

                                The fact that someone buys a wine they didn't mean to -- and drinks it -- is not the restaurant's fault. (Yes, it's their fault they brought the wrong wine; it's the customer's fault he/she drinks it without noticing . . . why do you think they show you the bottle?)

                                As I said above, people accept returns all the time for "not legal" reasons . . . obviously, the "customer is always right" carries a lot of weight and good customer service will (hopefully) bring you back. But that doesn't mean they are doing something within the bounds of the law.

                                On the other hand, by your logic, why not go into a restaurant and deliberately order the 1961 Chateau Cache Phloe for $1500 -- take a sip and say you don't like it? Then, the 1959 vintage? and after that the 1945?

                                No. Not liking a wine is NOT a reason to return a perfectly sound, well-made bottle of wine.

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  That may be the law, but it's certainly not enforced very aggressively.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Not until you get caught and your license suspended (which has happened to store owners I know/worked for) . . .

                                    No, Robert, as I said above, many retailers and restauranteurs turn a blind eye to that particular law, as it IS not only difficult to enforce, but -- more importantly -- they want to keep their customer happy.

                                    Buying wine on consignment is illegal, too, but that doesn't mean retailers haven't ever sold somebody ten cases of Champagne for a party and taken back 34 unopened bottles.

                                    Again, it's keeping your customer happy . . . persuming, of course, that you want to keep them as a customer.

                                  2. re: zin1953

                                    Thanks zin. You answered my question of experimenting in restaurants. Actually the law in CA doesnt permit you although its not strictly enforced. When I say experimenting I meant ordering expensive wine and returning because you didnt care for it. Not flawed. I dont know what the law is in NJ but I wonder how CA justifies forcing ppl to drink something they dont like. Does the law apply to mixed drinks?

                                    1. re: tom porc

                                      OK, we're getting rather esoteric here . .

                                      When a bottle of wine is bad (tainted with 2,4,6-trichloranisole [TCA], underwent malo in the bottle or some other problem), the wine can be returned to the supplier for credit*.

                                      When someone "doesn't like" a perfectly sound bottle, it can't be returned and the retailer/restaurant "eats" it.

                                      It's unlikely that the vodka in that cocktail went bad, but we're also not talking of an entire bottle -- it's the cocktail you didn't like. So the drink gets dumped down the sink and the bartender makes another.

                                      Now, I've never seen anyone order some esoteric cocktail, say "I don't like it," and ask for Scotch-on-the-rocks instead. I suppose it happens, but usually it's because the Martini isn't dry enough and they'll make another Martini . . . know what I mean?

                                      * Generally, though there are some problems/restrictions.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        I still dont understand. If, at a restaurant, you dont like your main course you can return it to the kitchen and order something else. If you dont like the way the bartender made your drink you can send it back and request something else. But a bottle (or glass) of wine that you didnt care for no matter the reason you are stuck with it? Sure the restaurant wont get credit for the bottle but they arent for the dish and drink that was discarded which may have cost more than the bottle of wine. Doesnt the meal(s) itself have enough profit built it to handle an occasional wine mishap?
                                        Why should wine have a different standard than the rest of the meal?

                                        1. re: tom porc

                                          I disagree that if, "at a restaurant, you don't like your main course you ca return it to the kitchen and order something else." If there is a problem with your meal, say-its too salty, or cold, then yes, you may return it to the kitchen for something else. But I don't think that it can be a subjective like or dislike to send it back. There should be a valid problem with the food to return it.

                                          1. re: troutpoint

                                            Sorry, I repectfully disagree. You should be able to return any dish for any reason. What is the alternative pay $20+ for a dish that you leave untouched and go home hungry? Btw, I dont get chatty with the server as to the reason they are returning my meal as opposed to the experience listed below. A simple "remove this from the table" is all I say. The server usu can tell from my body language that something is wrong and not to argue. (Crass New Jerseyans I know) And neither do I order something I know I dont care for like duck or clams for example.
                                            Restaurants go out of their way to please the customers because positive word-of-mouth is essential for the business to survive at least in my area. The last time I returned my dinner the manager comped the entire table.

                                            1. re: tom porc

                                              <<A simple "remove this from the table" is all I say. The server usu can tell from my body language that something is wrong and not to argue.>>

                                              Well, Don Corleone, if you said that to me, I'd remove the bodies, too! <g>

                                              Serious question, if I may:

                                              Let's say you have always heard about something called "caviar," that it was great, wonderful stuff, but you've never seen or tasted it before. You've also heard great things about that new, ritzy restaurant off Exit 42. You decide to go there for dinner. You see Russian caviar on the menu ($200), you figure you only go 'round once in life, and you oder the caviar plus a bottle of Dom Perignon . . .

                                              The waiter brings a beautiful glass bowl, filled with ice, and nestled on top rests yet another bowl of the most perfect, fresh Beluga the chef was able to smuggle out of Russia, with all the accompaniments one could imagine, and fresh bilini, still warm . . .

                                              You say, "This stuff tastes like fish eggs! Remove this from my table." (More than you usually say, I grant you, but indulge me for a sec.)

                                              And that's OK?!?!?!?

                                              (Meanwhile, you now know you can add caviar to your list with duck and clams . . . )

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                I guess I would have to point out that you realize that maybe you shouldn't return food if there is no valid reason other than you don't enjoy it if you won't say any more than "remove this from my table".
                                                What do you say when the manager comes over and asks what the problem is? Or asks how can they fix it?
                                                Just curious...

                                                1. re: troutpoint

                                                  I dont inform the server of the reason because they arent in a position of authority and dont want to hear complaints all night. When the manager/owner arrives at my table I briefly state this dish was not to my satisfaction unless the quality was poor then I may be more specific but I always be brief. And ask how will HE/SHE rectify the situation then let them do all the talking. I smile and remain pleasant and polite.
                                                  Again, I will not be forced to eat or drink anything I abhor. I dont return food frequently but sometimes I must. I've even sent back a pizza at a pizzeria.

                                                2. re: zin1953

                                                  Very funny post, zin1953. You have a great sense of humor and a real big funny bone :0)
                                                  Interestingly your question leads me back to my original post several days ago. I've come full circle.
                                                  I asked is it common to experiment with a $150 bottle of wine. I believe you answered no and neither would I. Nor would I experiment with $200 caviar. The place to experiment is at home either mine, family or friend's. I hope I dont sound like a wiseguy but I will not be forced to eat something I greatly dislike. Sure fire way to ruin an evening. Besides wasting good money.

                                                  So, if a bowl of disliked caviar was in front of me, I'd send it back. Of course, the restaurant may try to force me to pay for it. That's when I call my cousin Vinny.

                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                    You're right -- I wrote, in response to the "experimentation" question, "Is it common for people to experiment with wines in restuarants? Yes. With $150 bottles of wine? No. (Not in my experience.)"

                                                    The sort of experimentation I was speaking of wold be something like, "Oh, look -- they have the Chateau Cache Phloe! I've always heard great things about it. Should we try it?" And obviously wine list items of $100+ are a lot more common than menu items of $100+ . . . but at some point common sense (I would hope) takes over, and the person thinks, "Oooh, it's $150 -- that's a lot of money," and decides to order something else.

                                                    Where *most* experimentation occurs in restuarants vis-a-vis wine is wiht the "by-the-glass" offerings. If you don't like the Chateau Cache Phloe -- well, it only cost $10-15 (maybe $20); as opposed to the really Big Bucks for the whole bottle.

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      Trying a new wine by the glass makes much more sense. $10+ is manageable to experiment with. Also, experienced "winers" may need to drink a good portion of the glass with their meal before forming an opinion whereas a couple of forkfulls will tell me this dish has no hope of being completely ingested.
                                                      Which is why I asked that question. I wouldnt dream of experimenting with a high priced menu item and wondered if people did so with high-end wines as its harder (for some) to reject it and request another type.

                                            2. re: tom porc

                                              Oh, I ordered the duck, but I didn't realize that I don't really like duck. Take it back and let's see if I like the sweetbreads....

                                              1. re: Steve K

                                                Exactly! There was a great post on "The Foodwhore"s blog on this topic. She is a chef/owner of a restaurant, and had to field a complaint about the food. When she asked the customer what was "wrong" with the food, the answer was "I didn't think that I liked clams, but I thought maybe my tastes had changed, and I'd give it a go... I still don't like them. I guess I'll try the ...."

                                              2. re: tom porc

                                                I would suggest that troutpoint and Steve K have answered this question better than I could.

                                                If it's all about the steak being too rare (or too overdone), then by all means -- send it back. And get another steak. It's NOT, "I don't like steak, period; send this back and give me the trout."

                                                If the wine is FLAWED, send it back and another bottle will be served . . . of the same wine. It's not, "I don't like Cabernet, period; send this back and give me the Chardonnay."

                                          2. re: zin1953

                                            "On the other hand, by your logic, why not go into a restaurant and deliberately order the 1961 Chateau Cache Phloe for $1500 -- take a sip and say you don't like it? Then, the 1959 vintage? and after that the 1945?"

                                            Why not: morality, common sense, civility, self-respect, honesty, social custom, good parental upbringing, decency, and fear of being tossed out of the place, among other things. I don't believe that considering a paranoid and hypothetical possibility is a good ground for reasoning.

                                            I think part of our disagreement simply arises because you assume that I wouldn't like a "perfectly sound, well-made bottle of wine." If a wine is perfectly sound and well-made, I will like it. If I don't like the wine then it is not perfectly sound and well made.

                                            ed

                                            1. re: Ed Dibble

                                              ****************************************************************************************
                                              "If a wine is perfectly sound and well-made, I will like it. If I don't like the wine
                                              then it is not perfectly sound and well made."
                                              ****************************************************************************************

                                              Logically this makes no sense to me whatsoever.

                                              Take three bottles of newly released, two-year old California Cabernet Sauvignon. Taste them blind. Perhaps one is medium-full bodied, rich, varietally-correct, nicely balanced with ripe tannins, good but not sharp acidity, and lots of new oak. Perhaps the second is medium-bodied, a bit more earthy, but with varietally-correct fruit; the tannins are a bit harder and more aggressive; it has good balance, firm acidity. And the third is medium-bodied, round and supple on the palate, the agressive tannins are tamed, with good fruit, varietally-correct, good balance and a long, lingering finish.

                                              All three have no signs of bacterial contamination, no TCA cork-taint, no excess levels of volatile or aectic acidity, no ethyl acetate; there is no excess SO2, H2S, or mercaptans, etc., etc.

                                              Which one do you prefer?

                                              Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, you are saying, that if YOU don't like the wine then it CANNOT BE a perfectly sound and well made wine. Am I correct in that?

                                              Does that mean that -- for the lack of a better "immediate" arbiter -- that if you don't like a wine that Parker (or the Spectator or Tanzer or . . . [insert wine writer here]) raves about, it's a BAD wine? I mean, I frequently disagree with Parker's reviews, for example, but that just means I didn't like Wine "X," not that Wine X is a "bad" wine.

                                              There is a difference.

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                I have no doubts that I would like all 3 wines listed. Wouldn't you? That's my point. I am not demanding a "perfect" wine, a 95 pointer on my scale or somebody else's. Every wine I order in a restaurant doesn't have to be outstanding. Most of the time I am looking for the experience of a different and interesting wine. But if I am served something unpleasant, I should have the right to reject it.

                                                I am not saying that I am perfect - I'm just saying that when it comes to liking wine, I'm pretty easy.

                                                To take one example: in American pinot noirs, my absolute favorites tend to exhibit the terrior of Oregon's Yamhill valley. But when I have been in the Monterey area, I have ordered wines from the Santa Lucia highlands. To my palate, they are not quite as good as my favorites from Oregon, but that is certainly no reason to send them back.

                                                The reason for my initial foray into this topic is that many people who are just venturing into wine drinking become intimidated by all the wine geekiness that several of the posts in this topic exhibit. If you are telling beginning wine drinkers that they have to identify bacterial contamination, TCA cork-taint, excess levels of volatile or aectic acidity, ethyl acetate, excess SO2, H2S, or mercaptans, etc., etc. in order to reject a wine, then they will in most cases be too unknowledgable to ever send a wine back no matter how unpalatable it might be.

                                                I just remember the first time I rejected a bottle of wine. I had ordered the identical wine on a previous visit, and the bottle I was served on the second visit was completely inferior to what I had drunk before. Now I realize that the bottle was probably corked, but at that time I didn't know what was wrong with the wine, but I knew that it tasted pretty lousy. Nonetheless, it was scary to reject a bottle, particularly when all I could say back in those days was that I didn't like it - it didn't seem to taste right. If the server had responded with "Well, what's wrong with it?" I would have had no answer.

                                                I understand that there are people who order zinfandel expecting white zin and others who order a riesling auslese and then complain that the wine is "too sweet", but I wasn't writing my post for idiots; we are all chowhounds at this site. We should trust our palates.

                                                ed

                                                1. re: Ed Dibble

                                                  "I have no doubts that I would like all 3 wines listed. Wouldn't you?"

                                                  Well, as I said, I had three specific wines in mind when writing those hypothetical tasting notes, and my answer would be "No." The first would be Silver Oak Napa, a wine lots of people love (just look at the lines out the door when it's released!), but a wine I've never liked all that much, and I find it over-oaked. The second would be Dunn Howell Mountain -- potentially a great wine, but so hard, so tannic, that at two years of age, it will take the enamel off your teeth and strip the linings off your cheeks and gums! The third would be Smooking Loon for $5.99, a sound, well-made wine that I find varietally correct and absolutely boring.

                                                  * * * * *

                                                  "The reason for my initial foray into this topic is that many people who are just venturing into wine drinking become intimidated by all the wine geekiness that several of the posts in this topic exhibit. If you are telling beginning wine drinkers that they have to identify bacterial contamination, TCA cork-taint, excess levels of volatile or aectic acidity, ethyl acetate, excess SO2, H2S, or mercaptans, etc., etc. in order to reject a wine, then they will in most cases be too unknowledgable to ever send a wine back no matter how unpalatable it might be"

                                                  Quite the contrary! No one has ever said that if you can't identify the flaw, then it isn't flawed. But "not liking it" isn't a flaw. If there is something wrong with the bottle of wine, it doesn't matter if you can identify it or not -- there is still something wrong. Knowing that "corked" is "TCA" and "TCA" is "2,4,6-trichloranisole" doesn't make the wine MORE wrong; or flawed. It's still flawed.

                                                  But that isn't what you were saying. Now, if it's what you meant and weren't clear, that's another issue. But what you originally said was, "If a wine is perfectly sound and well-made, I will like it. If I don't like the wine then it is not perfectly sound and well made." And that quite frankly is -- well, you know.

                                                  I do not doubt for a single moment that many people are/can be intimidated by wine in general, and specifically by the (for some) daunting prospect of sending a bottle back in a restaurant. But you can't have it both ways.

                                                  EITHER "many people who are just venturing into wine drinking become intimidated by all the wine geekiness that several of the posts in this topic exhibit. If you are telling beginning wine drinkers that they have to identify [insert examples of flaws here] . . . then they will in most cases be too unknowledgable to ever send a wine back no matter how unpalatable it might be."

                                                  OR "I wasn't writing my post for idiots; we are all chowhounds at this site"

                                                  Which is it?

                                                  I readily admit I am relatively new to Chowhound as a participant, but from what I've read so far, no one is an idiot and the level of wine knowledge varies widely among the posters here. Thus, IMHO, it's important to explain things so that everyone and not just the extremely knowledgable and/or experienced can understand and follow the conversation.

                                                  If a wine is no good (flawed, due to some reason be it winemaking mistakes, poor storage, whatever), one need not be able to name the specific reason to know the wine is no good, and it should be rejected. But that is quite different than having a sound, well-made wine that you happen not to like the taste of.

                                                  Most restaurants will have a sommelier or manager taste the wine, if a diner -- regardless of how experienced -- says that the wine is flawed. Some will say, with varying degrees of tact, something along the lines of, "Well, I'm not sure that it is, but would you care for something else?"

                                                  Ooooh! Yes, technically they may be violating the law when they do that, but the restaurant wants to keep its customers happy and coming back to the restaurant, don't they?

                                                  Sometimes, the sommelier might say, "Wow! This thing is corked up the wazoo!" and bring another bottle of the same wine.

                                                  But just because YOU don't like it doesn't make it OK to send it back . . . even if you think it is.

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    First, I want to thank you for providing more insight into what you mean by not just rejecting a bottle because one doesn’t like it. Basically, your position reflects your involvement in the industry and probably arises from having seen idiots return perfectly fine bottles for no good reason. I should also add that I really have enjoyed many of your posts about particular wines on this board. On the other hand, my point of view is customer oriented and reflects the times that I have been reluctant to return a bottle because I wasn’t sure what was wrong with it exactly.

                                                    But I would also like to look at a couple of your examples. Let’s say that the server or wine list said that a wine is medium-bodied, earthy, but with varietally-correct fruit; the tannins are a bit hard and aggressive; it has good balance, firm acidity. So I ordered the 2 year old Dunn Howell Mountain and found that I had been served potentially a great wine, but so hard, so tannic, that at two years of age, it will take the enamel off my teeth and strip the linings off my cheeks and gums. As I understand your view, I’m stuck with that bottle. I would argue that it is the restaurant’s responsibility to have wines on its list that are drinkable now, and it would be proper for the diner to reject this perfectly sound bottle.

                                                    Similarly if some restaurant did a private label bottling of something like Smoking Loon, and described it on the wine list as “Marcel Latour’s California Cab. Very few cases exist, but this wine is a favorite of our manager and is medium-bodied, round and supple on the palate, the agressive tannins are tamed, with good fruit, varietally-correct, good balance and a long, lingering finish.” And then when they served me the $155 bottle of cab that was a sound, well-made wine that I found varietally correct and absolutely boring, I would again be stuck with that overpriced wine. Again, this seems unfair to the consumer.

                                                    In addition, if you think about the whole ritual involved with opening a bottle of wine, that ritual seems to allow the customer the choice. If truly it were merely a matter of soundness, then the sommelier or server should just present the wine, and following verification, open and sample it. If it was sound, the server would then pour it. No need for customer involvement. But of course, that is not the way wine is served, and I would argue that the ritual has evolved in the way that it has because ultimately it is the customer who judges whether the wine is satisfactory.

                                                    ed

                                                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                                                      Ed,

                                                      I have no doubt that my P.O.V. is at least partially from time ITB, but not completely. It also comes from tasting, learning, studying AND drinking wines for nearly 40 years. (After all, even people who are ITB are also consumers.)

                                                      The key to all this, I think, boils down to SUBjective vs. OBjective. If the wine is corked, it's an objective flaw and should be rejected. If you think the wine is too oaky (my first example, which you seem to have glossed over), that's SUBjective -- and it shouldn't be rejected.

                                                      Take the example above of the Dunn Howell Mtn. There are, belive it or not, some people who love Randy Dunn's wines in their astringent youth. I find they don't really come around for 10-15+ years, but that's me -- who am I to say that the people who enjoys them at two years of age is wrong? So . . . the restaurant puts Dunn on the list.

                                                      Let's not change the Smoking Loon (or, to be blatant about it, the Chalres Shaw) label -- at least for a moment. If it's $150, I would respectfully submit the loon is the one who bought it, and I'd be wondering what he or she was smoking. I'd also, however, say something to the sommelier/manager/owner about the prices on their wine list, and point out that the wine is $5.99 retail. (I grant you, I know it's $5.99 because I was ITB, but it's online and readily available for all to discover.)

                                                      [Note: The difference between having the restaurant KNOW I am/was ITB and NOT knowing, is that -- if they don't know -- I could (and did!) complain about wine list pricing without hurting potentially the winery I worked for.]

                                                      Now, if the list did indeed say:
                                                      "Marcel Latour’s California Cabernet Sauvignon.....$155.00"

                                                      I would be skeptical, for three reasons -- only one of which has anything to do with being ITB: 1) $155 is a lot of money (to me, anyway), and I'd be hesitant to spend that much money on a wine I'd never heard of; 2) it's a "California" appellation, and I enjoy wine enough to know that seems rather "general" to be so expensive; and 3) as someone who is/was ITB, I distrust wine lists which describe the wine.

                                                      Finally, Ed, I think you're wrong about your interpretation of the "ritual." It is NOT (traditionally, at least) to "allow the customer a choice." ("No, I don't like that bottle either, could we try that one? Maybe the ninth bottle is the charm?") It is SOLELY to verify that the bottle brought to the table is a)the wine you have selected from the list, and b) that is sound and not flawed/spoiled in any way.

                                                      There are many restaurants where the wine waiter will also taste the wine, along with the customer who ordered it. (This can be a bit annoying, especially if the sommelier takes more than just a sip, and I suspect this comes precisely from the customer who rejects the first eight bottles and now wants to try the ninth . . . ) ;^)

                                                      Cheers,
                                                      Jason

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

                                                        Good drinking!

                                                        ed

                                              2. re: Ed Dibble

                                                "If a wine is perfectly sound and well-made, I will like it. If I don't like the wine then it is not perfectly sound and well made."

                                                Ed, you are either a perfect human being, or you are just wrong in your statement above. There are wine varieties that are used primarily as blending grapes, which sometimes get bottled alone. It is perfectly possible for that bottle to be sound and well-made, and for me not to like it.

                                                My wife also says that she likes "anything well made", and in truth she appreciates "anything well made", but doesn't always like it. She also won't go near a wine made from anything but grapes.

                                                Bottom line, it adds nothing to the discussion - or debate, in this case - to pretend that one is capable of liking "anything well made".

                                                1. re: Steve K

                                                  Yes, well -- you said it. <g>

                                                  I did those three "tasting notes" with three specific wines in mind, which I'll be happy to name later -- I was hoping "Ed Dibble" would post first.

                                        2. re: Ed Dibble

                                          Ed,

                                          If one is trying a bottle of wine, with which they are unfamiliar, the staff should be there to help with accurate, though personal, descriptions of the wine. At that point, the responsibility is on the server's shoulders, as well as the customer's. If the wine is bad, reject it. If it does not live up to the server's descriptions, then maybe return it. To blindly order wine from the list, and reject every bottle, that does not meet the customer's tastes is just not right. One could have thousands of dollars of wine opened, so that they can taste it. That is what wine tastings are for. When one has a question, they should consult with the server. This helps defray the responsibility for a wine that is just not as one expected. Now, many restaurants will allow rejection, just on personal tastes alone. Often, they then come to customers, such as myself, and offer a wine by-the-glass, that is not on the list. I've had many such wines and enjoyed most of them. However, I feel that if I order it, without support from the staff, and it is not flawed, it's mine, and I have learned a lesson. That is just how I view it.

                                          Hunt

                                        3. Not liking a wine needs to be defined. I have witnessed morons ordering $100 + bottles and wishing to return it because it is "too dry". Yikes. Should a restaurant have to offer a bottle of wine as after shift drinks to their staff because a customer ordered a wine without a clue ? No. If the wine is flawed or poorly explained by a server, by all means, send it back but at least have a reason other than not liking it.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: TonyO

                                            It's too dry, or too sweet, or too strong. And there are people who send something back just to show that they can or to impress someone. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who buy something that is not what they expect. Should someone send back a 1st Cru Chablis because they didn't like because "It sure didn't taste like that chardonney I got when we took that tour to Napa."

                                            There are several reasons to not like a wine, but at the same time the wine is a perfectly correct, and wonderfully made bottle of wine. I don't know how many times I've had to remind my wife that she won't like some wine that I think is absolutely wonderful.

                                            1. re: dinwiddie

                                              "Should someone send back a 1st Cru Chablis because they didn't like because "It sure didn't taste like that chardonney I got when we took that tour to Napa".'

                                              The answer is, "No."

                                          2. It was a rhetorical question. Of courese the answer is no. On the other hand, if you had asked the sommelier for something, and given him/her a general idea of what you liked, and then gotten something that you just did not like, you could say so. In that case a good sommelier would replace it.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: dinwiddie

                                                Absolutely. If the staff has worked with a customer's tastes and their knowledge of the kitchen, then they should be able to get very, very close. If the customer makes the assumption (the Chablis above is a great exampel), that the wine MIGHT taste like some other wine, but then is offended, when it doesn't, that is the customer's "bad."

                                                In many years of wineing n' dining, I've only had a sommelier miss the mark once. I discussed this wine, the pairing with the particular course, and asked that it be replaced, even though it was not "flawed." Had I just picked it from the list, I would have offered it to the staff and ordered something else - maybe something, with which I was familiar.

                                                Hunt

                                              2. Yeah, nothing like some friendly banter. Kind of makes you want to grab a six pack of PBR and a bag of Doritos. Does drinking wine really have to be this exhausting and cerebral ? Lighten up, pull the cork and raise your glass. It's really not that difficult. And if it it's tainted, pour it down the drain and open another bottle. If it happens to be one of your precious 1989 1st Growths, oh well, just write another check from your trust fund account I'm sure your well connected friends will survive noshing on foie gras while you make another selection.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: TonyO

                                                  You know, that's the nice thing about wine - it is cerebral, and hence it's glory. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with a PBR (well, maybe if you'd said a Chamay... ), but wine, when great and paired well just calls up emotion. I can only say that for a few dozen specific beers/stouts/ales. Now, there are many more wines that are just cork-poppers - the majority by volume, but many are worth discussing, thinking about, and even writing about. I'd hope that those are the ones being discussed here.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Careful ;) There are many food friendly beers out there. Note: this is coming from a self proclaimed wine geek.

                                                2. My friend and I dine in NYC and, every so often, my friend will deem a bottle of wine "corked." I can't tell. It tastes fine to me, and, because I like it, he rarely sends it back. Awhile back, I came to the conclusion that a very small percentage of the population can discern the "corked" phenomenom.
                                                  This was confirmed recently. We were in Charleston at S.N.O.B. and my friend ordered a Reisling. I thought it was just fine. He deemed it "corked". We consumed it. We returned the following evening and my friend quietly spoke to the waitress about the Reisling. She shared with him that there had been other patrons who noticed it.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: sadiegrrrl

                                                    Some people are much more sensative to TCA in wine (what causes a wine to be corked) than others. Too often, the corked wine does not have the classic "wet cardboard" odor, but the fruits are just dull and flat and the nose very muted. What one thinks is just a not so good bottle of wine is instead, a slightly corked bottle.

                                                    1. re: dinwiddie

                                                      Good description, and yes, some folk are much more sensitive to TCA, than others. Some years back, I was in a tasting room of a well-known Central Coast winery doing their normal flight. When we hit the Chard, I pulled the server, who happened to be the winemaker, aside and whispered, "this one is corked." He sniffed the bottle and immediately grabbed about ten glasses from the patrons, to be replaced with a fresh Chard. No one else had noticed! Most winemakers' have one big fear, that customers will experience a corked bottle, as their first exposure to that wine and just dislike it, not knowing why. It's not about replacing bottles for distributors, who replace them for retailers and restaurants, but loosing a potential buyer of their wine, because "they don't like it."

                                                      In our household, both wife and I are very sensitive to TCA, so there is seldom a problem. If I spot it, she's usually in agreement, and vice-versa. It's nice to have a backup in most situations. Now, if we both get it, but the sommelier doesn't... well, that's another story.

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        I was at a recent wine tasting and there was an obviously corked bottle of Oregon Pinot. I pointed it out to the person in charge who replied "that is the oak that you are noting." I bet they didn't sell too many bottles of that wine.

                                                        1. re: Scottydog

                                                          Corked wines are ALWAYS a problem at tastings . . . the winery rep *should* taste each bottle, but in practice, you get so busy that you often forget and -- thus -- from time to time, you *will* pour a corked bottle.

                                                          To not realize that you're pouring a corked wine happens. When someone alerts you to it, inside you're mortified -- wondering how many people have tried itm not said anythiing, and thinks that was the way the wine was *supposed* to taste.

                                                          But to not know what "corked" is, and to tell someone (who obviously does know) that it's the oak . . . OMG, that's a f***up of the worst order!

                                                    2. re: sadiegrrrl

                                                      Human beings are extremely sensitive to 2,4,6-trichloranisole (TCA). Take this abstract of a scientific paper:

                                                      Number: W1 03 1056
                                                      Author: Sanvicens, N.;Sanchez-Baeza, F.;Marco, M. P.
                                                      Corporation: [CSIC-IIQAB, Dep. of Biological Organic Chemistry, 08034 Barcelona, Spain]
                                                      Subject: L - ENOLOGY
                                                      English Title: Immunochemical determination of 2,4,6-trichloranisole as the responsible agent for the musty odor in foods. 1. Molecular modeling studies for antibody production. 2. Immunoassay evaluation
                                                      Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
                                                      USA, 2003, 51 (14) 3924-3931, 3932-3939,
                                                      ISSN: 0021-8561
                                                      Publication Year: 2003
                                                      Language: En
                                                      1st Abstract: Since early 1980 it is known that 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (2,4,6-TCA) is mostly the component resconsible for cork taint in wine. This compound has the lowest sensory threshold varying from 4-10 ng/l and appr. 50 ng/l in white and red wine, respectively.

                                                      * * * * *
                                                      In other words, TCA is measured in parts per TRILLION. (ng/L = nanograms per liter)

                                                      However, it is quite true that a wine with a LOW level of TCA contamination will seem to be "muted" in terms of its aroma, dull and flat -- exactly as dinwiddie describes. In cases like this, the only "real" way to know will be to open another bottle and compare side-by-side. The untainted bottle will (generally) show significant differences.

                                                      I have a reasonably high sensitivity to TCA; usually I'm the first one to pick it out. Yet I have been surprised on a couple of occasions when I have thought the wine was "dull," and simply not showing well, and it turned out to be corked.

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        And, add to the "muted" fruit component, the additional acidity, that is also usually present. These manifest themselves, long before the "wet cardboard" aspect comes into play. Now, if you have a mildly TCA contaminated btl. of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, that you have never tasted before, how do you know if the level of acid is "higher," and the fruit is muted? If you do not know the wine, it can get past some of the best.

                                                        Hunt

                                                    3. zin1953, RE: your final sentence. How did you know it turned out to be corked rather than dull? I appreciate your and dinwiddie's comments.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: sadiegrrrl

                                                        It's a combination of experience and "guesstimate." Typically *I* am the one who first says, "Corked!" However, on the three times that I can recall off the top of my head when I haven't caught it, a) someone else did, or b) I spoke with the sommelier and asked. In all cases, it was either with an older wine, which can -- through age -- lose a lot of fruit, or was a wine that I wasn't familiar with but which someone else at the table was.

                                                        One time was at a trade tasting of Italian wines and it was a wine -- I don't remember now what it was -- that I was not familiar with. I described it to the importer as rather dull and not very aromatic. He immediately grabbed the bottle, poured some in to his own glass, and said, "No, that's not the wine -- it's corked," and opened up a new bottle that was significantly better.

                                                        The other times were both in restaurants. Someone else thought "corked." I didn't catch it. We asked the sommelier (or the manager) to taste it, and he/they agreed that it was corked, brought out a new bottle that was significantly better.

                                                        It's happened many times the other way 'round -- for example when I judge at competitions. Obviously corked wines are, of course, no problem; but there have been times when I thought the wine was corked, other judges were not sure, and we had a new bottle opened and poured. Most of the time when that occurs, the first bottle was corked.

                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          If the second bottle's also dull and muted, that may mean the whole lot was damaged by heat during shipping.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Or there were a whole lot of tainted corks in that batch, or that something in the cellar comtaminated the wine while in barrel (as was the case when some chateaux re-did their cellars), or . . . .

                                                            Regardless of the cause -- it's usually "two strikes and you're out." If the second bottle is "off," I've never met a sommelier that won't say, "How about something else," make a recommendation of something similar that one might enjoy, and pick up the phone 1st thing in the morning to the sales rep!

                                                          2. re: zin1953

                                                            "I described it to the importer as rather dull and not very aromatic. He immediately grabbed the bottle, poured some in to his own glass, and said, "No, that's not the wine -- it's corked," and opened up a new bottle that was significantly better."

                                                            Glad that the importer/pourer cared enough to make the change. I was attending a trade event, and the session was "Reserve, what does it mean?" and conducted by the winemaker's son, who was the marketing director for the winery - higher-end Napa producer. One btl. of their Reserve Chard was definitely corked. His comment to the group was, "OK, some of you won't be able to determine if Reserve means anything, since your wine is corked." This was at a major resort, that had his Reserve on their list, and he should have had backups. He should also have cared enough to sample EACH bottle, upon opening and removed any that were questionable. Heck, these were all sommeliers, or cellar-mastes in the audience. They BUY this guy's family's product! I still cannot order this winery's wine, because of a total lack of concern and preperation for the event. Amazing how bad an impression a bad bottle can make, especially if the winery doesn't care.

                                                            Glad your guy grabbed the bottle and got it out of sight in a hurry.

                                                            Hunt