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Oct 7, 2009 01:24 PM

Odd wine incident

A few weeks ago my friend and I went to dinner in Boston (don't want to name the place, I like it a lot and don't want to discourage people from going there). The food was great, the service also very good, except for one issue.

We ordered a bottle of white wine, which happened to the screw-top kind. When our waiter brought it to the table, he was holding it in kind of an odd way - with his hand over the neck, and he poured it holding it like this, which I haven't seen a waiter do before. It looked odd to me, and it also seemed like there was some wine missing from the bottle. I also did not hear the "crack" of the top opening, which I realized later. After he had filled both of our glasses it was obvious that it wasn't a full bottle - it was less than 1/5 full, and two normal size glasses should not empty a bottle that much (yes.... I might drink too much wine).

I tasted it and it had that taste of wine that you open one night, don't finish, and stash in the fridge for the next night... a bit sour. Clearly we had been served an already open (and used!) bottle of wine. I was honestly kind of shocked, because it never occurred to me that a server/restaurant would try to pull something like this. I wasn't sure what to do about it, but I had to say something because I wasn't about to drink (and pay for) a sour, opened bottle of wine. I didn't want to actually accuse him of trying to cheat us out of a full bottle, so I just told him that it tasted sour and asked if we could have a new bottle.

Immediately he apologized, saying it was probably just a bad bottle, and brought us a new (unopened!) bottle within a few minutes. This is what strikes me as so odd about all of this; he was very nice and attentive for everything else during the meal, so I don't see what motivation he would have for doing this. The only thing I can think of is that a manager or bartender just gave him a bottle that needed to be used up and hoped we wouldn't notice. We did not tip any less than usual because of the wine issue - he fixed it as soon as he knew it was a problem, and it was the only bad note to an otherwise nice dinner.

Has anything like this ever happened to any of you? What did you do about it?

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  1. When ordering wine by the glass, I am not surprised to see the bottle already opened. What would the restaurant do otherwise? Pour two, three glasses and discard the rest, open a new bottle every table? This is impossible.
    As for the wine being sour, that is a totally other matter. The restaurant seemed to have dealt with it well. No customer should be sipping sour wine, be it by the glass or the bottle.
    Opening a bottle one or two hours before normally does not make it go bad...

    2 Replies
    1. re: alixium

      The OP ordered a bottle, not a glass - the first sentence of the second paragraph makes that pretty clear.

      Starcia, it sounds like the waiter (or someone else at the restaurant) tried to pull a fast one. If I were a better person, I'd entertain the possibility that this was an honest mistake - the waiter grabbed a bottle without noticing it had been opened. But I'm not a better person. Still, you got your replacement bottle without an argument, so everything turned out alright, no?

      1. re: small h

        oh oh... you are right of course.
        I *was* finding this a bit weird! sorry!

    2. Am I reading your post correctly? It sounds like you ordered a full bottle (as opposed to by the glass) and received an opened bottle. If that's so, then I'd have been pissed. If I were you, and really did normally like the place, I'd write management (or catch them on my way out the door, if business is slow) and let them know that their integrity matters to you. And the tip would have suffered.

      How completely lame of them.

      1. We definitely ordered a full bottle, which is why the fact that it was already open was a problem. I'm not a very confrontational person, so I didn't want to accuse the waiter of anything right there, and I was also so shocked by it that I didn't even think to speak to management before leaving. I also prefer to think the best of people... even if they don't necessarily deserve it. :-)

        I figured that since the bad bottle was replaced without issue, there wasn't a need to make a huge fuss. But I will definitely make a point to either write to them or speak to someone next time I'm there. They should know that it wasn't acceptable for it to happen in the first place.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Starcia

          With the economy in the state it's in right now and restaurants struggling, this is big concern for me. I find myself avoiding sushi places because I'm concerned they will push the freshness of the food to the limit. And I find myself avoiding places that are typically slow because of the concern in cutting corners or trying to get away with something.

        2. He definitely knew it was opened and was obviously trying to conceal it with the pour method. This subterfuge may have been suggested by the manager, the bartender, the waiter, or any combination of the 3. it doesn't matter WHOSE idea it was, it is appalling and I would have called him on it, albeit nicely. Since you didn't and the issue was otherwise resolved correctly, there's not much you can do about it now since the bottle is gone and the incident could easily be disputed by anyone involved. I definitely would have dinged the server on the tip and would have let him know in some way that I knew the bottle he originally brought was previously opened and poured from. Even if it was just an aside over your shoulder as you left the restaurant like, "Thanks, you have a good night too, and I'd suggest not giving any other customers who order a bottle of wine a previously opened and half-empty bottle."

          1. I don't get it. Did he do the normal wine presentation - i.e. a) show you the label, get confirmation that it was what you ordered, b) give you a taste, get confirmation that the bottle was good - before pouring the glasses? If he did, wouldn't you have noticed the bottle was only half full? If he didn't, that's odd in the first instance.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hsk

              He did not do the normal, full presentation. He did pour a taste - which he gave to my friend, who did not notice the sour taste in that sip - but then just filled both of our glasses and set the bottle on the table. It was my first clue that something was off. Unfortunately for him, trying to hide it by skipping all that was what made me notice in the first place!