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Do you ever ask to try wine in a bar/restaurant?

There's a background to this which will just take a moment; I'm 6', I wear baggy jeans, and skate clothes (hoodies, T-shirts etc.), I cut my own hair, and I often don't shave for about a week, and never close.

So I do wonder what people make of me when I sidle up to a bar, spend about 5 minutes looking through the wine list, and then requesting a sample. I guess it makes me feel a bit ... conspicuous, especially when you do the "poncey" slosh, smell, sip, swallow thing. I dunno. But I figure if I'm gonna drop £20+ on a good wine, I don't want to be disappointed. Especially if there's no way to plan before-hand (girlfriend spent a decent amount on some, frankly undrinkable champagne in the past. It sat in the fridge for about a month until it was clear no-one was going to go near it).

Anyway, do you guys ever request to sample wine? And how do you handle it when it's not want you want? Just send it back and ask to try another? Or does it become rude at some point to turn the situation into a mini wine-tasting?

This would be a good nagging question.

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  1. Just to clarify, are you talking about the wines they sell by the glass? Almost anyone here is probably more knowledgeable about wine than I am, though I drink it everyday !, but I can't imagine anyplace opening a bottle just so you can "try" it. And I've read plenty of commetary here about how the wine being "off" and your not liking it are too entirely different things. You're not just being contrary, are you? :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Oh, totally. If I think the wine is corked, I'd send it back, much to the embarrasment of my girlfriend (I'll come to that after). This would be in a place which does sell by the glass, so if they didn't have a bottle open, I'd be ok with that, and I'm always polite.
      No, I mean if I'm not sure whether there's something I will definitely like (if the wines are all ones I've never heard of) I'll ask to try a sip before buying a bottle, which I think (hope) is reasonable.

      As for wine being corked, I've only experienced it once, when I met my GF after work in a restaurant, and she'd ordered the wine. I insisted it was corked, but she refused to send it back, and I refused to drink it. So we agreed that I'd order another bottle for me ^__^
      much, much better. And when Donna compared the two, she ended up drinking mine.
      But I think it's ridiculous she didn't return it claiming she liked it, and I think she paid for that meal, and I added the tip and money for the new wine.

      1. re: Soop

        So you ARE talking about asking for a taste and then ordering a bottle of only those wines that are available by the glass, right? I can't imagine anyone having a problem with that. I also agree with small h, that there would be a limit to that. It is not, after all, a tasting room.

    2. The larger the by-the-glass wine list, and the more passionate a restaurant is about wine, the better they'll be about offering a sip or two.

      For me, it's a joy to have a seat with a passionate bartender and choose different wines to match the foods I'm eating. My wife learned a lot about wine by doing this with me.

      If I order a glass of wine and I *really* don't care for it, I'll tell my server, along with requesting a different glass of wine. This only happens when the wine's been out too long or it's otherwise compromised, and the restaurants *know* they've been beating up on their wine so they're glad to provide a different glass.

      It shouldn't matter how you're dressed, so long as you're not wearing "skater clothes" into a "jackets required" venue. About being self-conscious about your appearance: your personality speaks volumes about you. That will overcome some people's need not to take seriously a person who's grooming is less-than-manicured.

      1. I'm shy about asking, but I've found if I express interest in a particular wine, the server or bartender will just pour me a taste. Sometimes I don't care for it and select another, but I would do that only once. If the second one also doesn't thrill me, I drink it anyway. C'est la vie.

        1. I have found almost always the bartender will offer a taste first. Some places don't turn their bottles very fast and that open bottle could have been opened for a day or two and is not very good. I was at Jake's Grill in Portland last Tuesday and having lunch at the bar. Tried a taste of their upper end Oregon Pinot by the glass and it was very thin, switched to another one and it was much better.

          1. regardless of how you look, never be afraid to ask (nicely!) for something you want. worst thing you cane hear is "no." and if a place treats you shabbily when you're pleasant speak with your feet, ya know?

            let me preface the rest here by saying i'm a professional sommelier. if you'd like a sip of a wine by the glass, by all means ask! any place worth its salt would rather have you enjoy what you order, than not drink it and gripe privately or not like it, return it and it goes down the drain. especially ask if it's an unusual varietal -- that often will get your server or bartender pumped about you as a wine geek and they'll be happy to talk and taste if time allows. often i have open samples from tasting with suppliers and if somebody is really interested i'll line up a flight of stuff not listed and we'll have some fun.

            the only way to learn is to taste. with my job i taste dozens of wines in a week -- sometimes over 100. even so, i don't know everything and will frequently ask for a taste of something beforehand when i'm out to eat. sometimes i'm very disappointed and am sooooooo very glad i didn't bother with a whole glass!

            if wine is corked: SEND IT BACK. do not waste your money or your time. don't feel weird or impolite. the restaurant will keep the corked bottle, return it to the supplier and get a credit. do not, do not, try to soldier through it. yuk.

            1. I ask for tastes when it's a wine I've never seen. The last one was a dry reisling. I hate reisling and our server kept pushing the dry, saying it wasn't sweet. I tried it, and liked it, and had a few glasses. The only time I wouldn't ask is when the bartender/server is in the weeds. And don't worry about what you wear-that should have nothing to do with anything.

              1. I definitely ask. It's a good way to make sure you'll get something you like, and since the bottle's open anyway, it's no skin off the restaurant's nose. Usually I limit my request to one taste - or the hubby and I will ask for one each (of different ones), and then swap - or instead, I'll ask for the server's judgement between my top two choices, which tends to produce an offer to try both. Barring unusual circumstances, anyplace worth its salt shouldn't object to a request. When I worked as a server and bartender, it was a pretty common thing...

                1. Like others here, I think a restaurant with a serious wine list won't mind if you ask. I hate asking for a freebie, but I've also purchased $20/glass wine that I ended up abhorring.

                  The times when I've been conflicted and the server has offered a tasting, I've never gone beyond asking for a second option. If the server suggests one wine, I don't like it, and then he/she brings me something completely different, it's usually going to hit the spot. If not, then I order a cocktail or a wine flight because I'm obviously feeling fickle that day.

                  Shout out to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco: O had a fantastic merlot at their wine bar, and went back a few weeks later to buy a few bottles from their store. I went back to the wine bar section to check the menu and make sure I'd remembered the name and year correctly, and when I explained that I was there for research and not for a glass the bartender poured me a generous taste so I could be sure I still loved it. I did, and I love the FPWM too. This is just one example of their staff being gracious, informed, and helpful. BTW the wine was a 2006 Ballentine Merlot. Delicious.