Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Nov 11, 2010 06:14 AM

Wine service in France [moved from France board]

We have noticed in the last couple of years that at busy/hip places, wine is often opened away from table at a serving station rather than in front of us, then presented in the normal way for tasting and acceptance. In my book, this is just plain wrong. Have you noticed it? And, if so, what is your response?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I wouldn't drink it. There's no reason whatsoever that a bottle of wine shouldn't be opened in front of you, like it's supposed to be.

    1. Opening the wine at the service station serves 2 purpose (IMO) check that the wine is not "bad" and let the sommelier taste and or decant the wine without possible making a mess in front of the clients.

      And all should be done in plain view of the person who ordered the wine.

      Last week, at Gagnaire the bottle was left on the table (on a silver coaster) and at Passage 53, the bottle was left on the service station (in plain view); and when ordered by the glass at "Au Pied de Cochon" the wine was served from the bottle (presented and checked) at the table.


      1. If only the decanter is presented, then there could be a substitution problem. If the wine is presented in the bottle, not sure what the issue is. Is the service station where the bottle was opened in view of the diners' tables?

        1. I don't have any issue with it. Upon reflection I feel that better restaurants often open the bottle away from the table (after presentation) especially if it is a particularly good or old wine. Opening it at a serving station alllows the sommelier to take greater care than if they are putting on "a show" at the table. It is also a lot easier/safer if the cork is delicate and then of course it facilitates decanting.

          To be controversial I wonder if the "show" at the table isn't simply an affectation, and really serves little purpose. Is substitution really a problem in France?

          I also wonder how long it will take France to move away from corks to twist tops. On my last visit I think it was 100% cork, however here in Australia it is nearly 100% twist top (even the best wines). Waiters are developing the "grand twist", they arrive at the table, present the bottle, and then in a wonderfully fluid movement twist and serve. I can't wait to see how a French waiter turns this into a production with a gallic twist.

          6 Replies
          1. re: PhilD

            "after presentation" would not bother me. But I would like to see the bottle before it is opened. In rare instances, the wrong bottle has been offered and it is more elegant and efficient to correct the problem before rather than after the fact.

            1. re: PhilD

              <I also wonder how long it will take France to move away from corks to twist tops.>

              My favorite white wine maker (Domaine LaRoche) has all their wines in screw caps, even the $125 Reserve de l'Obedience. So changes are being made.

              1. re: PhilD

                I really hope it never really catches on. In the US in the 70s, when the US masses were just discovering wine, there were thousands of gallons of utter crap bottled in screwtop bottles.

                i think all of us of that generation will have to be too old to drink wine any more to erase that correlation from our memories. (yes, that means we'll be dead.)

                I just can't get my head around enjoying the *crick* of an aluminium band being broken as a sound of celebration.

                and yes, I've read all the same articles you have, expounding on its superiority...but ugh.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  It is funny how quickly you adapt - I now get "annoyed" when I reach into the cellar and retrieve of of my French treasures only to realise I need then search out the corkscrew that has taken to hiding in the back of the drawer - I think it is sulking.

                  But seriously we have now been back in Aus for a year and have yet to be served a corked bottle. In Paris we quite regularly returned wines, I am very sensitive to TCA so seem to pick it up quite easily. I suspect the economics of spoilage will cause France to change sooner than you expect.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Too late sunshine, it has already caught on in the US. Many winemakers, especially those who make limited amounts of wine, use Selvin closures (screwtops) and have for years. Personally, I prefer cork, but I do hate when an expensive bottle of wine has to be poured down the sink because it is spoiled by a bad cork.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      I think I'll staunchly call myself a Luddite.