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Sep 28, 2008 09:39 AM

Care of wine vs. beer in mid-range restaurants

Last week on my travels I ended up in a nice wood-fired pizza joint- high end for pizza, but by no means a high-end, expensive restaurant.

When I go to these places, I see how the bar cares for the wine, and inevitably order a beer, although I would prefer a glass of wine most of the time. The red wine is always sitting on the back bar, with a cork half stuck in the bottle, regardless of the price of the wine, with no way of knowing how long it's been like that, especially if you dine early. The beer has far better quality control- pressurized and chilled, it's consistently better cared for than the wine. Ordering wine is often setting myself up for the uncomfortable exchange of refusing it, or just not drinking it. The beer is always as it should be.

I know part of this is just convention, and that a large keg of beer is certainly more expensive than a single bottle of mid-range wine (what's typically available by the bottle), but by volume, a 6-8 oz glass of wine can be, say $8. While a 16 oz beer is $4.

So why is the wine treated so badly?

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  1. Not to hijack your thread, but many places also do a poor job caring for their beer - failing to clean the lines on their kegs or exposing bottles to improper lighting conditions.

    1. If they could leave the beer out, they would...

      1. Perhaps it is because many restaurants don't make very big profit margins on the food they sell and are, therefore, reliant on the beverage mark ups to cushion much of the profit margin.

        Hence, they are unwilling to discard last services less than half consumed wine (or perhaps nearly finished) as that would mean pouring much of their profit down the sink. Also it may not arise as much of an issue as many patrons are not that discerning when it comes to wine and will happily consume what is available with out much thought as to how it was stored.

        Finally, perhaps they have such a high turn over (particularly of the house wine - which in these sorts of establishments it what I tend to stick to) that storage isn't the issue we might expect it to be and your reaction to the wine actually isn't about storage but simply the quality of the wine to begin with.

        1 Reply
        1. re: irisav

          I appreciate the replies. The most relevant reason is, of course, because they can. For all the reasons stated above- people may know their beer, but there's lots of crap/semi-crap wine out there. Who's to say it's "bad" wine, or just "bad wine" indeed.

          Sadly, reinforcement that I'll stick with beer when dining alone.

        2. I usually ask how long the bottle has been sitting, most good bartenders will give you a taste before pouring.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cstr

            Common wine-ordering problem.

            Yes, ask for a taste. If it's not to your liking, or the wine tastes a little blah, say so, and ask if you could try a taste from a fresh bottle. Sometimes that makes a world of difference. Also -- often -- red wines are served too warm. They should be just above cellar temperature, about 60 degrees F. It's not uncommon to ask for a bottle of red wine to be chilled 5 minutes or so to bring it to the correct temp. Red wines served too warm taste of alcohol, and the lovely fruit and other aromatics are often lost.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              I agree with all that you've said, and these are all actions that I take.

              But my question was more philosophical than practical. It turns out that the reasons for poor wine care are more practical (for the restaurant) than philosophical (love and/or proper care of wine).

              It's just sad, because good wine service is such a lovely thing, but so rarely evident.