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Wine by the glass not what was ordered, thoughts?

Last night I went out with a few friends for cocktails at a restaurant/cocktail lounge. My friends ordered cocktails, and I decided on a glass of Cotes-du-Rhone.

When the waitress returned I was handed a very large pour of wine which was definitely (okay I'm 99% sure) not a Cotes-du-Rhone. What came out was what tasted like a very heavily oaked California wine possibly Merlot or Syrah. The mouthfeel, oak, and really strong fruit-bomb flavor really gave it away. I drink a lot of French wines and a lot of Cotes-du-Rhones (along with Beaujolais-Villages, they are our weeknight wines). I would never assume I could judge a wine blind and I can't be sure what this was, but it definitely didn't seem like a CdR. This felt like the difference between ordering a German Riesling and getting a California Oaky Chardonnay; it was a dramatic difference. Which brings me to my question.

Has this ever happened to you and did you speak up knowing there's no way to "prove" that you were served something different? I have been to restaurants with good wine programs who bring out the bottle when they pour a glass of wine, but would you speak up in this situation (despite the fact that most studies show it's very difficult to blindly identify varietals)? Do restaurants sometimes pour an open bottle thinking that most patrons won't be able to tell the difference?

For me, it turned me off from the restaurant but at the same time it's possible I was wrong. Thoughts?

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  1. I had a very similar situation and did bring it to the server's attention however, they insisted that they had it right and offered to show me the bottle but, I declined at that point not wanting to cause that much of a scene but, still don't believe that I received what I had ordered.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      The server could have shown you a bottle of what you ordered, and that still wouldn't mean it was what had been poured in your glass.

      I would definitely question it when I think I've been incorrectly served, and I wouldn't return to a restaurant whose servers refuted me. I think the only solution to that problem -- IF they know they are right -- is to say something like We;re sorry you're not pleased. I'll bring the bottle over to your table and pour you a fresh glass." and then do that.

      1. re: ChefJune

        You are correct ChefJune, but then a glass from THAT bottle would tell a tale. When asking for that, even when I offer to pay for the additional glass, the restaurants have almost always refused. My recent experience found the server agreeing that the wines were NOT the same, but the bartender refused to compare, and insisted that she'd gotten things correct, and we were all wrong.

        Hunt

    2. I had a situation a few years ago when I ordered wine flight of Ca. pinots. 2 of the 3 glasses tasted exactly the same. when I questioned the server, he insisted that I had received 3 different wines. Not feeling sure of my tasting skills and a bit reluctant to cause a scene, I let it go and never returned to that restaurant again. I think I would be more assertive and ask for another pour in front of me.

      1. I'm no wine snob but a CdR is made of grenache grapes which are my favorite, very fruity, or as you might call it "fruit bomb" That's what I like about them. Some can be tannic which you might consider "oak". And some have syrah grapes in them. Like I said, I am no wine snob but I know what I like.

        5 Replies
        1. re: momskitchen

          Cotes-du-Rhone red wines can be made with 21 different grape varieties. Many are made with Grenache but few are 100% Grenache. Only tiny producers are allowed to make 100% Grenache wines. North of Montélimar, 100% Mourvèdre and Syrah wines exist. All that said, most CdR are blends. I agree with you that 100% Grenache wines can be fruitier than a blend and that they also tend to have a chewier mouthfeel; that said 100% Grenache wines are definitely the exception to the rule and the bottle listed was not 100% Grenache.

          Everyone's tastes are different, but to my tastes, I would say that a run of the mill CdR is middle of the road in terms of fruityness. I don't consider them "fruit bombs." I reserve that term for wines that taste very strongly of fruit and not much else; wines that aren't balanced. I tend to associate that term with warmer climates, ripe fruit, and high alcohol (ie. some producers in California or Australia). CdR's I would also consider medium bodied. This wine was very heavy in terms of body.

          Tannin and oak are two distinct things. I used the term oak in this case because the wine had a very strong Vanilla flavor (generally associated with American oak) as well as a fruity sweetness (granted that could be oak, could be alcohol content, could be ripeness of fruit). Tannin is different than oak, and this wine didn't have strong tannins.

          1. re: Klunco

            Everyone's got their own terminology, I guess! I have found lots of people that use the term "oak" when they really mean "tannin". Like I said, I'm no wine snob, but I know what I like. And if you don't like what you got, by all means ask to see the bottle and taste it to check! I would....

            1. re: momskitchen

              Not to be a troll, but are you implying that someone who is knowledgeable enough to ascertain the difference between tannins and oak-imparted flavors a "snob"?

              1. re: sleepercar

                Personally, I refer to them as a "wino."

                Hunt

          2. re: momskitchen

            There are certainly "New World" styled Côtes-du-Rhône reds that can indeed be described as "fruit bombs." There are a great many, however, where "fruit bomb" would be the *last* two words that would come to mind. The same can be said for levels of oak -- some may have loads of new oak and vanillin; a great many will have low levels of oak or none whatsoever.

            Without knowing the producer and -- as Brad alluded to -- the importer, we may never know in which style this particular CdR was produced . . . .

          3. If you are not certain, ask them to show you the bottle when serving the wine.

            I've never been fussy about that since most of the places where I order wine by the glass always show me the bottle before pouring new wine.

            At other places where I know they will not do that, I order beer or something else (mixed drink, ... )

            1. Next time ask the server to pour you a small taste at your table from the actual bottle. Then compare your two glasses side by side.

              But, as a couple of people have mentioned, CdR can be an amalagmation of anything. And they can vary in terms of oak treatment. Didn't happen to be a Robert Kacher wine, did it? :o)

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