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Server Didn't Pour Taste. My fault?

Last night at a trendy San Diego restaurant, the server did not pour us a wine taste. He opened the syrah, then dumped a big pour in my glass. I whoa-ed him before he did the same to my husband's glass. Is this another beloved ritual/service act that's been deemed outmoded by ignorant people? The whole meal set off on a wrong note, but now I'm wondering if it's me. Did I miss the wine memo that says only Important People or Important Wines get tastes first? Am I supposed to ask for a taste to show I'm Important?

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  1. If there's any possibility that a wine can be bad ("corked") you get to taste it. Essentially this applies to just about any wine that has just been opened. Doesn't have anything to do with being or appearing to be important.

    1. Confused by this post. Any restaurant that has a wine program should know to pour a taste first so that you can determine if it's corked or has some other flaw. Restaurants with no formal wine program can run the spectrum of pleasantly knowledgeable to serving you a warm glass of Sutter Home White Zinfandel.

      I don't think trendiness per se has anything to do with it. Nor does wine importance (any wine regardless of price can be flawed).

      Why I am confused by your post, is that it's simply a factor of having a restaurant that is proud of their wine list and program - and restaurants that are not. I don't see where one would gather it was due to snobbery??

      The only exception is if you bring the wine yourself and are paying corkage. Then I can see someone not thinking to pour a taste first.

      5 Replies
      1. re: goldangl95

        I have been drinking/tasting wine for 40 years. I have also sent back 3 bottles in my life. Someone told me that what I experienced is not uncommon at restaurants today.

        1. re: pickypicky

          *shrug* As I said previously, it just depends on what restaurants. Most restaurants these days serve beer and wine because of the markups/profits they can receive from the alcohol. This does not mean they have a wine program or really know anything about wine service. I don't think it has anything to do with trendiness, young people, or snobbery. Unless you want to call the trend of many more restaurants serving alcohol than perhaps did so in the past.

          I have yet to been a restaurant who had a real wine program that did not observe the formalities/niceties - and if they did not - they should be admonished. As I said, though, the trend if anything. For many restaurants, is to grab some wine on discount and sell it to make a profit - no one knows anything about he wines, no one knows how to serve them or what temperature etc. So you may be encountering that more? *shrug* As I said, I eat out a lot and I have never encountered this.

          1. re: goldangl95

            Yes, too many such restaurants, and I will never return to them.


          2. re: pickypicky

            While not exactly what you experienced, I see some very sloppy wine service, and in restaurants, that should know better. Too many restaurants just seem to not care, with a "take it, or leave it" attitude. Not something that I can abide with.

            Heck, every meal that I have, after breakfast (and there are even some exceptions with breakfasts), has wine. I expect a full service, at any restaurant, where I am dining. If not correct, or to my liking, I pull the server aside, and gently explain things to them.

            Just did a new restaurant in New Orleans, and the server was not up to speed yet. The sommelier pulled her aside, and tried to instruct her. She did an OK job, but then, I took her aside and continued that education a few more levels, though in a very nice way. While I like to think that all servers have been highly trained, I know that does not happen. I am patient, and will work with the new folk, to improve their service.


            1. re: pickypicky

              >>>> it just depends on what restaurants <<<


              >>> I have yet to been a restaurant who had a real wine program that did not observe the formalities/niceties <<<

              Agreed, and this holds true for (most) restaurants without a formal wine program!

              >>> As I said, I eat out a lot and I have never encountered this. <<<


              I can honestly say that I cannot recall one single time this has happened to me UNLESS . . . we've ordered a second bottle of the same wine. In those instances, several times the server has either a) simply poured the wine WITHOUT having me (or someone else at the table) taste it first, or worse b) poured the wine into glasses still containing wine from the first bottle!

              If it is indeed the same wine, I don't care about getting new glassware -- save the poor dishwasher some work, I say -- but one should still taste it separately to see if the second (or third, I suppose) bottle is sound, and one shouldn't "mix" the two bottles of wine, either!

          3. Sounds like they need some wine consulting help. If they are going to charge you a 4x markup service should be better. This is why I always bring my own wine/ decanted and often times my own stemware to restaurants.

            1. I dislike the taste, I much prefer that they dispense with it and either pour me a glass of wine or leave the bottle on the table so I can pour it myself.

              29 Replies
              1. re: redfish62

                I'm just the opposite. I very much want them to pour the taste first, especially if I brought the wine. We often have wine dinners where a group of us each bring one or two bottles of wine to a restaurant. In the ones where we thing the wine service is the best, not only do they always pour a taste, but they make sure that they pour it for the person who brought that bottle. Anyone who drinks wine regularly knows that corked or cooked bottles are going to happen. I'd prefer to find out with the taste, and not with a full glass. There is a reason for tradition.

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  If they pour you a full glass, and the wine is corked, they have to throw away the whole bottle, don't they?

                  So what difference does it make if they pour you a taste or a glass, if the wine is spoiled they throw away the bottle and bring you another one. The fact that you have been poured a full glass does not in any way mean that you have to accept a bottle of spoiled wine.

                  The only difference is that pouring you a full glass is more efficient, because then in the majority of cases when the wine is NOT spoiled, you have dispensed with the needless taste.

                  It's a needless little ritual. It is possible for a bottle of beer to get skunky but they don't pour your a taste of beer, they pour you a glass of beer. If the beer turns out to be skunky you merely point out that the beer is foul and ask them to bring you another bottle.

                  1. re: redfish62

                    I would disagree with you. Detecting a bad taste or smell is easier for me with less in the glass. The taste is also my first glimpse of the wine, and again, it is more aromatic and easier to experience with less wine/more air in the glass.

                    So what you write is that pouring wine is all about the effort of the server? That skipping the taste means he/she has less work to do? That's absurd. But yes, entirely possible that younger people would think that way.

                    1. re: pickypicky

                      Correct. Tasting doesn't need to take more than a few seconds. Swill the glass around to get the volatiles out (can't do that with a full glass). Eyeball the wine. Sniff taste. You're not tasting to discover if you like the wine. You are tasting to see if it is bad.

                      1. re: pickypicky

                        No it's all about less work for me, the customer. Just move (1) the wine from (2) the bottle to (3) my glass.

                        If the wine is bad I will let you know.

                        I don't want to be bothered with any tasting. When you buy wine by the glass do they give you a taste? I

                        1. re: redfish62

                          If you go to a restaurant that cares about wine, and you ask about different wine-by-the-glass choices, there is a good chance that they will offer you a taste before you order.

                          This is not even to see if the wine is OK, the staff will taste it when they open a new bottle, or if the bottle has been open a while. It's just a courtesy to make sure you are happy with your selection.

                          1. re: pamf

                            I have experienced such, with wine-centric restaurants, that have extensive B-T-G (By-The-Glass) selections. It is common to offer a taste, before approving the full pour, however large, or small, that might be.

                            To me, this is a nice, and welcomed touch.


                          2. re: redfish62

                            On two occasions, both in very high-end restaurants, with Chef's Tastings and the Sommelier's Pairings, we have encountered "corked" wines being poured. In both cases, other diners were poured corked wines!

                            Smelling and tasting are essential. It is anything BUT a waste of time.


                            1. re: pickypicky

                              if you cant tell the wine is bad with a full pour, then you cant really tell the wine is bad, now can you?

                              (edit) i also wanted to add that this wasnt intended to sound so disrespectful. im writing this as a wine novice. it really was a question, didnt intend for it to sound like a challenge. sorry.

                              1. re: charles_sills

                                Actually, it IS somewhat easier to determine with a glass that is LESS full -- there is more room to swirl and aerate the wine (without spilling) -- then with a full glass . . .

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  yeah i understand that from the previous post. i guess my question should be, then why would you ever have a full pour, if you are unable to taste it as well with less air in the glass?

                                  1. re: charles_sills

                                    Define "full pour."

                                    1) a wine glass should NEVER be filled more than one-third full; 2) there is a HUGE difference between "tasting" a wine and "drinking" a wine.

                                    When one tastes, one is looking for flaws, one is evaluating and concentrating. It is work. (I spent 35+ years in the wine trade, and I have *never* been as exhausted -- including long hikes in Yosemite -- as I've been after critically tasting and evaluation 200+ wines in a single day.

                                    When one is drinking, it's all about enjoyment, about the interplay between the wine and the food and the conversation among friends . . . . that's NEVER exhausting.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      by full pour i meant the amount of wine you get in a glass when it isnt just a taste. i guess i just dont understand and thats how it will always be haha.

                                      1. re: charles_sills

                                        Charles, you described yourself as a "wine novice," and so I took you at your word.

                                        It's quite simple: there is NOTHING mysterious at work here. If you *want* to understand, it's easy. If you don't want to, that's fine too. Since you asked questions, my presumption was that you *wanted* to understand. Guess that was my mistake.

                                        1. re: charles_sills

                                          Maybe you were referring to a wine by the glass selection? I've never had a problem (maybe I just look thirsty, I don't know), but would probably complain if it wasn't at least halfway up the glass.

                                          1. re: unagi1

                                            It depends on the glass. I should preface this comment with the fact that I very seldom buy wine by the glass. However, I appreciate when proper stemware is used in a restaurant. I also think that wine pours by the glass are larger than what I would pour into a glass from a bottle I purchased.

                                            I consider a healthy pour to be 150ml or just over 5 ounces. (5 pours from a standard 750ml bottle) That is what I would expect from a BTG program. In a proper red wine glass that would be about 1/4 full. In most good (if generic) white wine glasses it would be a little more than 1/3 of a glass.

                                            1. re: unagi1

                                              Actually with wine by the glass it is an interesting question. One isn't supposed to fill up a wine glass more than half way in order to allow a lot of air, an ability to swirl, sniff the contents etc. without worrying about wine spilling everywhere.

                                              There is, however, the fact that if you are only paying for one glass whether one would rather get more wine than worry about all the above factors. I'm not even sure what my answer is to that question.

                                              1. re: goldangl95

                                                Keep in mind that most of the BTG selections have already been opened, thus allowing some time for the oxidation process to work itself into the equation. At that point, it's those asthetics that you mentioned such as swirling, determining the color, sniffing that although contribute to the overall appreciation of the wine do nothing for the actual tasting portion.

                                                I too agree on the more wine part.

                                          2. re: zin1953

                                            Is the definition of "tasting" that you provide above being related to what we do in restaurants when we order a bottle and are given a taste? I think for most of us when tasting at restaurants we are crudely judging the wine we order simply seeing whether it is "off" or not. We're not evaluating, scoring or concentrating deeply. And for me and maybe others it is during the course of the meal that the wine might further develop and become even more interesting in the glass; as well as have interplay with the food and lead to good conversation among friends.

                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              I don't think there is any disagreement in the definition . . . but rather "a matter of degrees."

                                              The average person with anything more than a "passing interest" in wine will indeed concentrate a little more upon being presented a sample for tasting -- "is there anything wrong?" requires (IMHO) more than a quick sniff to see if it smells like vinegar. One is checking for a whole list of things -- in a heart beat, it's true -- but checking nonetheless. And that requires more effort and concentration than picking of the glass and taking a swig, or downing it like a shot of tequila.

                                              If one is participating in a wine judging, it's an entirely different level of effort and concentration, but it's the same -- merely cranking up the dial to "11."

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                Let me add, as a woman, that a wine taste is sexy. It's like a handshake or an exchange of glances-- instead of a bear hug or a slurp. Even with an inexpensive wine, the first approach is a glorious unknown. I am always excited by the prospect. There is something provocative in the way a small bit of wine clings to and seduces a clean glass. For a moment, everything else at the table, in the room, in my life drops away. The only thing left is a scrap of color. An aroma. The beguiling streak of legs down the empty bowl. And finally, finally, the taste.

                                                (And gentlemen, here may lie the difference between us, in this department and many others.)

                                                1. re: pickypicky

                                                  I don't know; I happen to agree completely.

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    I agree. Just not in that romance-novel type of fashion. Nice sentence structure, pickypicky.

                                    2. re: redfish62

                                      A needless ritual? Boy, do I disagree. It's important for both the diner and the restaurant.

                                      Let's do it your way. The wine is popped (even the server doesn't take a sniff) and poured. Server leaves.

                                      At some point, you or another diner will taste the wine and discover that it's flawed. Let's say it's corked.

                                      So, you wave the server back over and notice that he's bringing you your first courses. Ack. Food but no drinkable wine. You may not have even gotten the pleasure of an apperitif. And that first bottle may have been selected to go with this very course.

                                      The waiter puts everyone's plates down and removes the offending bottle. And he must now remove the tainted glasses that are filled with TCA infected wine and replace them, as well.

                                      He returns to the cellar to retrieve another bottle. Pops it, pours it, and leaves.

                                      Ack, this one's oxidized... um, waiter?

                                  2. re: redfish62

                                    Where are you coming from, with those comments. Do you even drink wine, when dining out? I cannot believe that you do, and if so, not very often.

                                    That comment is totally absurd, IMHO.


                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                        No, but you can get an "Amen!" ;^)

                                  3. No one has mentioned that the waiter left out the 'sexist' (and quite proper) tradition of pouring for the male customer first.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                      Interesting. I always thought the tradition was the person who ordered the wine(who for many many years would most likely be the male patron) was the person to taste. Was it really a gender rule e.g. like displaying menu prices?

                                      1. re: FrankJBN

                                        Curious. Why is it "quite proper" to pour for the male customer first? Similar to goldangl95, my experience has been the taste is poured for the person who ordered the wine (regardless of gender), and then full pours for women, followed by full pours for men.

                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          The person ordering the wine should be the first choice. That person might designate a taster, and then, regardless of gender, will be the one to pass, or fail. It is not a gender thing, by definition, though might be in practice.


                                          1. re: FrankJBN

                                            The wine is poured into the gentleman's glass first so that any cork residue comes to his glass, not to the glass of his guest.

                                            1. re: FrankJBN

                                              Assumes that men are always the hosts. Not always the case.

                                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                                That should be amended to the host's, or hostesses' glass. That person is the one, who might get cork particles. The gender aspect is not really in place nowadays, though according to wine industry surveys, men still order about 75% of the wines, served at meals, and are considered to be the host.

                                                Along with the possibilities of cork particles, it is considered that the person ordering the wine is in a better position to know if the wine is flawed, unless they pass that responsibility to another at the table, or to the sommelier.


                                              2. re: FrankJBN

                                                Why on earth is this "proper"? I have certainly been offered the wine list more often than, say, my wife, but the server has ALWAYS poured the taste for the person who ordered the wine -- not automatically for me, or whatever man happens to be present.

                                                The only exception is if the wine order is placed with Waitperson A, but Waitperson B (who has never before visited the table) brings the wine as ***ASSumes*** it was the man who ordered. The intelligent waitperson, however, will ask in a situation like that who is going to taste . . .

                                              3. There is benefit to pouring a small taste, much of which has been covered. Most flaws will be detected by the nose, but a tasting benefit for a small amount rather than what the OP experienced is that it gives the taster a chance to detect the temperature of the wine.

                                                Typically, as covered in another thread on this board, red wines in restaurants are served too warm. If I taste a red wine that could benefit from slight chilling, I'd rather determine that with less wine in my glass.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                                  Er I disagree. As far as temperature goes, you are essentially getting the glass temperature with a small taste. Better to feel the bottle to gauge the temperature.

                                                  1. re: kagemusha49

                                                    Yah, we're going to disagree. The exterior temperature of the bottle isn't that good of an indicator.

                                                    1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                                      I'm with Brad on this one. You can tell from a small taste if the wine is too warm (or as is often the case with white wines, too cold). There is a reason for the "taste" before pouring, and I think it has been covered here and in other threads. Good wine services is good wine service and it isn't hard to learn it. Always open the bottle in the presence of the patron, not in the back. Always show the bottle to the person who ordered it before opening to made sure it is the right bottle and year (you would not believe how many times I've been brought the wrong wine entirely in restaurants that pride themselves on a good wine list); always pour a small taste for the person who ordered the wine (not for the man necessarily); and always pour for the lady first after whoever tasted it has agreed that there are no issues. I can list many more that I consider good wine service, but these three are essential.

                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                        If the amount of wine poured for the taste is a small fraction of the weight of the glass - as it always is, then you get the taste at the temperature of the glass and not the temperature of the wine in the bottle

                                                        1. re: kagemusha49

                                                          I think that you are confusing too many things, and going off on tiny limbs, that are collapsing under your weight.

                                                          The tasting is just that - tasting the wine.

                                                          If the temp is too cold, then you instruct the sommelier to place it onto the table. If it's too warm, then an ice bucket can be brought over.


                                                        2. re: dinwiddie

                                                          Thank you, dinwiddie, for stating clearly what I understood to be and now can believe firmly to be the proper protocol-- regardless of trend! The server either goofed or was a bonehead.

                                                      2. re: kagemusha49

                                                        I feel that you are totally incorrect, but maybe hot reds are to your taste? Same with overly cold whites?

                                                        I disagree, but maybe that is our different tastes?


                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Er, it's just simple physics. You're not going to get a reliable indication of temperature from the tasting. That's not a biggie to me but apparently it is to some people. As far as I'm concerned I'm tasting simply to determine if the wine is corked.

                                                          1. re: kagemusha49

                                                            To me, the serving temp IS a big thing, and is too often gotten wrong by too many restaurants.

                                                            I taste, and feel the bottle, and then determine if I want that bottle on ice, or on the table. Over the decades, I find that I have asked for more reds to be placed on ice, than whites. I seldom ask for ice for white wines, unless they were not cellared.

                                                            A couple of high-end, wine-centric restaurants, where I dine frequently, even list that their white Burgs, are served at "Cellar Temp," and that is a good thing.

                                                            OTOH, I have to fight many servers, to NOT chill my white wines.

                                                            Too many restaurants feel that all white wines should be served at about 45F, though that might come from the bulk of their clients?

                                                            Temp IS important to the enjoyment of a wine.


                                                    2. If you did "miss the memo," then so did I.

                                                      Some restaurants now think, "OK, you got a wine. What's the big deal?"

                                                      I see this most often with "mid-level" restaurants, but many, which tout themselves as "wine destinations." IMHO, they have so very much to learn.

                                                      Nowadays, when I find a wine service, that is good, I almost stand and clap. Few know anything about wine, though many pretend to do so.

                                                      The person, who ordered the wine, or the "designated taster," should be presented with the bottle, so that they can read ALL details, and then a taste of that wine, to pass, or fail on it. If there is a second, or third bottle of that wine, then the designated taster should be presented with a clean glass, to taste and pass on THAT bottle - again and again. When hosting, I taste every bottle for my table. If a server appears with another bottle, thought it might be the 3rd, or the 8th, I demand to taste it, and pass on it.

                                                      Many younger servers think that is BS, but they are very wrong. I find that few of those could tell a fault, even if I hit them over the head with it. The mind set seems to be, "Hey, it's red (or white), and I pulled the cork back there. What do you want?" Well, great wine for my guests is one thing.


                                                      1. I don't see the problem.

                                                        If the wine is bad, either a small pour or a big pour will result in the wine being exchange and the glasses replaced.


                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Maximilien

                                                          I think major the issue is servers skipping the procedure of pouring then giving the taster a chance to taste, and instead just dumping wine in the glass and skedaddling.

                                                          1. re: eethan

                                                            It's not like all the servers are going to flee the restaurant after you get poured the glass of wine, if for some reason your server should skedaddle out the front door you could always catch the attention of another server and ask them to bring you another bottle.

                                                            Either way somebody is going to have to go fetch you another bottle, and you are going to have to go another 5 minutes without a glass of wine.

                                                            1. re: redfish62

                                                              Not sure about "skedaddling," but the server should be standing by, holding the bottle with the label clearly in sight, waiting for the wine to be approved. It makes no difference whether they pour a glass to the rim, or a tiny amount for tasting.

                                                              The small quantity is the appropriate approach.

                                                              Now, do not get me started on pours into a glass, as that is another pet peeve, but needs to be addressed in another thread.


                                                          2. re: Maximilien

                                                            Not to be fussy, lol, but the rationale for the small pour HAS been explained above, in posts by dinwiddie, pickypicky, kagemusha49, and Brad Ballinger.

                                                            I don't mind the ritual, but I will admit to occasionally telling a server in a chain restaurant that we could skip the tasting of the (cheap tank car) wine we'd ordered. Never a problem. :)

                                                          3. Seems like s simple fix, "Excuse me but before you pour anymore, I'd like to make sure the wine is OK". The server may have just missed a step in haste. No need to let it ruin your dinner, or embarrass the server. Just ask for the service you want with good cheer.

                                                            1. Wow. Not your fault at all, and shame on the restaurant for pretending to be trendy and not rounding it out with comparable service and wine etiquette training. Restaurants already make so much money on the markup, the least they can do is give you a chance to sample the bottle and OK it.

                                                              As for the comments regarding that it does not matter the amount of pour, well yeah it does matter -- if I pay $XXX for a '96 Gran Reserva, you aren't going to unceremoniously dunk it in my glass, you are going pour adequate portions that can be swirled, and then decant the rest separately so my 16-year old wine can relax appropriately. The forms MUST be obeyed :-).

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: unagi1

                                                                The decanting point is an excellent point. If you do decide you want the wine decanted (or it's old enough that the sediment requires decanting), then serving full glasses of wine (and in the case of 4 person table almost the full bottle) is inherently problematic.

                                                                Of course, hopefully a restaurant with such a great wine list, would have a decent wine program and the waitstaff would be adequately trained. Hence my comments above - it's not trendiness - but representation of having a high caliber wine program that sets my expectations, and I really haven't been disappointed in the places that do represent that (though admittedly in the SF Bay Area I think we have a rather high level of wine knowledge among the population).

                                                                1. re: goldangl95

                                                                  With a wine, that will be decanted, or caraffed (basically the same process, but with slightly different intents), I will ask for a taste from the bottle, prior to the decanting/caraffing. Saves time, if there is an issue.


                                                              2. If you are paying for "the wine experience" then I can see how you would have a valid claim to have been cheated if you are not offered the taste. That is a big part of what you are paying for.

                                                                I will readily admit that I do not pay for the wine experience, what I purchase is a bottle of wine, and the service of removing the cork from said bottle and pouring me a glass (actually I'm more than happy to pour it myself).

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: redfish62

                                                                  <<I will readily admit that I do not pay for the wine experience, what I purchase is a bottle of wine, and the service of removing the cork from said bottle and pouring me a glass (actually I'm more than happy to pour it myself).>>

                                                                  That is what separates you from many. They DO want the full wine-experience, and feel that they have paid for it.

                                                                  Some would be happy just to have ethanol, fruit juice and water, served from a chilled box, in a plastic cup. Others, however, do want more.


                                                                2. Anyone want to tackle the possibility that restaurants may benefit from just a small taste by using that bottle for by-the-glass service if a wine is rejected by the diner for a minor or mistaken flaw? It probably happens more than we'd like to think, so it's in the restaurant's best interest to do a small first pour.

                                                                  An acquaintance of mine was serving a $300 bottle of Champagne that was rejected by the patron for having bubbles that were "too small". Ummmmm..... that's supposed to be a GOOD thing, but the patron insisted and got a different bottle to replace it. More wine for the BTG program. ;o]

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                                    Interesting point.

                                                                    I frequent a local French restaurant, that has a very extensive collection of Burgs. The sommelier knows me, and knows that I like red and white Burgs, but can only delve just so deeply into their collection. On three occasions, he's offered me "returned" wines, and two were DRC's. Both were ordered by patrons, but then refused, due to "flaws." In both cases, they then ordered wines that were less than half the cost. In all cases, there were NO flaws, but the buyer obviously had remorse, or was acting for his guests, by refusing a US $ 1,200 bottle of wine, for no reason.

                                                                    In all cases, I paid pennies on the $, and the wines were lovely. That sort of silliness could happen every evening, in my book.


                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      Really tacky, in my opinion, for a guest to return a wine due to "flaws", and then ask for a different wine as the replacement. When I do get a flawed bottle, I always want it to be replaced with the same wine, which will usually be just fine, as the "flaws" are generally specific to the bottle.

                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                        I could not agree more. I find it in very, very bad taste, and would never imagine doing such. When I find a flaw, I want the same producer, and the same wine, just a perfect bottle. I also want the sommelier, or wine-steward to be able to do a side-by-side, to understand what my issue was.

                                                                        Most, when offered a taste/sniff, can do that, but some cannot, and some do not wish to do so. Instead, they would rather cast bad reflections on the patron. That also seems to be bad form.

                                                                        Last time that it happened, the sommelier asked very loudly, "What would Monsieur want instead?" My answer was short, and issued just as loudly, "A good bottle of that same wine!" The second such bottle was excellent, where the first was tainted. However, the sommelier refused to taste the two, and just commented, "Well, the chef will just cook with the bottle that you returned." At that point, I stood, and told my table not to order any dish with white wine, as it will likely be bad. The sommelier was not impressed, but was gone within three weeks, so things were probably taken care of?


                                                                    2. re: Midlife

                                                                      I'll second what Bill said; I always order BTG when traveling on business -- always trying to taste as much variety as I can. More than a few times, someone has ordered a wine and not wanted to pay for it, or the "wrong bottle was brought out". At that point it's basically a BTG candidate, since they don't want to toss it. Just negotiate a good price based on the bottle value and enjoy.

                                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                                        Of course..... the other side of this is my experience with moderate and lower-end restaurants that open bottles for BTG service and just let them sit on the backbar for days with absolutely no attempt at preservation. I found this out, for certain, while pitching the Argon preservation device I developed. Hopefully any restaurant serving the caliber wines we're mentioning would preserve opened bottles and check to make sure they're still at peak quality before serving........ hopefully.

                                                                      2. Even at Olive Garden, they do a taste. They even walk around and offer tastes of various wines without even ordering it.

                                                                        1. Regarding my experience above, my husband reminded me that the glasses were nicely polished. He commented on the glassware when it was brought to the table. The trendy restaurant (part of a chain of celebrity chef hype) knew that much. Good glasses, nicely polished. I've now decided from all yall's responses that the server goofed or was stupid. Next time I'll be prepared.

                                                                          (And Bill Hunt, I want to drink at your table. I've had many a burg that needed some quick-time out of the bottle to ready itself. I'm not surprised that bottles get sent back too quickly.)

                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                          1. re: pickypicky

                                                                            Not sure what the deal is, with bottles of high-end wines being sent back, with no obvious flaws. I have talked about this, with some sommelier buds, and most feel that it is partially a "power play," where someone wants to make a show of sending an expensive bottle back, and sometimes "buyer's remorse," where they wanted to impress the table, but then though about it, and cringed at their expensive choice. Then, a few allowed as how some will order by price-point only, with not a clue what the wine will taste like, and not be impressed.

                                                                            That is where a "regular," such as myself, can step up, and help them recoup some of the cost, and it becomes a good deal for me, and my guests too.

                                                                            If I order a wine, and it is not flawed, then it is MY wine. No argument.

                                                                            Now, if the sommelier suggests a wine, it is not flawed, but does not go with the dish(s), then we have a conference on that selection. It might not yet be MY wine, but usually is, with "reservations," that get marked down for later.

                                                                            One of my wife's Drs. loved to tell a story about another Dr, who always ordered high-end Burgs, and sent the first few bottles back, until he'd finally order a Bdx, which was more to his liking. While impressive to some, I was not one of those. Such behavior smacks of grandstanding, but I could be wrong. It also sounds like that person was not familiar with wines, and only wanted to make a big production of it - choosing a totally different wine.

                                                                            If I have an issue with a wine, my first desire is to have a flawed bottle replaced by a good version of exactly what I ordered.

                                                                            Maybe I am in the minority?


                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              >>> Maybe I am in the minority? <<<


                                                                              1. re: zin1953


                                                                                When the sommelier suggests a wine one would expect that there had been a discussion about the price point that was appropriate, what the individual likes when drinking wine, and what food will be ordered. Then an appropriate suggestion can be made. If the wine is not flawed, but just not to the taste of the customer, there should be no issue about replacing it with something else and using it for the BTG program. However, if a customer orders wine just to show how important he is in order to send it back, I'm not sure how to deal with them. Flogging comes to mind.

                                                                                On the other hand, I also don't like sommeliers who try to up sell me wines for no reason other than to get me to spend more. (I spend lots of money on wines whether off the list for from my cellar.) What I really appreciate is a dedicated wine person who will listen to what I have to say about what I want (and want to spend) and will make an informed recommendation. After all, they should know their list better than I do. I've had many experiences where I've ordered a wine and based on my order had the sommelier suggest something that I might also like. Often the price was equal or even less than what I ordered and many times the recommendation introduced me to a wine that I would never have tried otherwise. Of course, I still expect that the wine service will be professional and properly executed. (I had to get a little on topic in this post.)

                                                                                1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                                  "However, if a customer orders wine just to show how important he is in order to send it back, I'm not sure how to deal with them. Flogging comes to mind."

                                                                                  With all due respect, dinwiddie, you're far too lenient and forgiving.

                                                                                  " Often the price was equal or even less than what I ordered and many times the recommendation introduced me to a wine that I would never have tried otherwise."

                                                                                  The former brings forth a pleasant surprise, the latter creates a lasting fond memory. As always your comments are greatly appreciated.

                                                                                  1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                                    Hmmmmm . . .

                                                                                    >>> If the wine is not flawed, but just not to the taste of the customer, there should be no issue about replacing it with something else and using it for the BTG program. <<<

                                                                                    And how do you publicize that you now have a 1990 Ch√Ęteau Lafite by-the-glass? (or any other $$$ bottle?) No. If the wine is not flawed, and the customer ordered it . . . .

                                                                                    It's one thing if the wine is already available BTG . . . pour a sample and let the individual taste it. But if someone is ordering a $100+ bottle off the list, you can't simply pour it off by-the-glass when the customer says, "Oh, that's red -- I thought Zinfandel was white."

                                                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                                                      Levi Dalton (sommelier extraordinaire, Bar Boulud, etc.) addressed this very well, I think:

                                                                                      "You've picked out a bottle of wine and now the server is standing over you, asking you to taste it. You do, but... There's a problem: The wine is not at all what you'd expected. In fact, you kind of hate it. You try to mask your disappointment because well, you don't trust your tastes and you wouldn't want to ruin the night for the rest of your table. And heck, maybe the wine is great but you're just not "getting it"? So what happens next? Just follow these tips.

                                                                                      Assess the Situation
                                                                                      Many wines need to breathe so that they can open up. Does your wine seem too "hard" or bitter? If so, there is a strong chance that decanting might help it out. It also might help to decant a wine that smells "stinky" to you. Ask the server to decant the bottle. Then pour a taste of the decanted wine, swirl it a bit, taste, and judge again.

                                                                                      Don't Wait
                                                                                      You probably ordered your food before you ordered the wine. By the time you're tasting, your appetizers may be on the way. No pressure. Just take a second sip. If you still don't like the wine (even after it's been decanted), talk with your server immediately. If he or she is the sommelier, great. If not, ask if the restaurant has a sommelier you could speak with. Barring that, a manager. You have some questions about the wine, no big deal.

                                                                                      Take a Bite
                                                                                      If you already have food on the table, take a bite before going back to the suspect wine for a second taste. Trying wine with food can alter your perception of the wine's flavors and texture in ways that are hard to predict. A wine that seems shrill on its own can sing in a chorus with the right food.

                                                                                      If You Were Steered Wrong, Say So
                                                                                      What happens next has a lot to do with what happened before you placed the wine order. Did someone on staff offer to answer questions about the wine list? Were they answered correctly? If you asked for a recommendation, is the wine within the parameters of what you asked for? Maybe you said, "I'd like a light red wine that will complement my wife's duck and also my halibut," but you ended up with something massively full-bodied. If so, that should be acknowledged. It also doesn't hurt to say "This isn't the sort of wine I expected from the description." A server who wants to help will pick up on this and try to remedy the situation, usually by suggesting another that's comparable in price to the original bottle. Finally, it isn't rude to ask if the server has tried the wine you're asking about. It's important. The key is to keep the dialogue open with the staff.

                                                                                      Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandfor...

                                                                                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                                                        Nice piece.

                                                                                        What we have here, is several different situations. The choices differ, as do the situations.

                                                                                        You order a wine. It is presented, and you, as the host, or the one, who ordered it, taste the wine. You are then responsible for the big question: "is that bottle flawed?" if so, then there are remedies to handle that, and most should be for the restaurant to provide you with another bottle of THAT wine, in hopes that it is not also flawed.

                                                                                        The sommelier recommends wine A to go with your food. The wine is not flawed in any way, BUT it is a horrible match for the food. Then, the sommelier, and the patron, should discuss the situation, and hopefully a replacement wine, also without flaws, will be presented.

                                                                                        Major differences in those two scenarios, and different resolutions for the problems.

                                                                                        If YOU ordered the wine, and it is NOT flawed, I feel that you just bought it. If the sommelier recommended it, but it did not work, though not flawed, then discussion should take place.


                                                                            2. One time at a mid-price, fairly casual restaurant, the server asked me, upon serving the wine, if I had had that wine before. I had, and said so. At that point, her response was, "Then you don't need to taste it." Aaagh. I politely explained that I did indeed need to taste it, and why. It seems some servers have not been sufficiently educated in the "why" behind the ritual.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: MelMM

                                                                                It sounds like the server was mis-informed about WHY one tastes a wine, before allowing it to be served to their table. Time to school 'em!