Top five pet peeves about restaurant wine service

Cork with screwcapI consider myself a fairly patient person, especially when it comes to service in restaurants. I, along with millions of others, toiled in commercial kitchens and dining rooms across the country, and certainly understand the often horrific treatment endured by smarmy scumbags masking as diners. But enough is enough. I must kvetch about wine service in restaurants. Wine is conceivably the most lucrative cash cow a server has at his/her disposal, yet so many abuse the privilege – the privilege of making 15 percent for simply opening and pouring a bottle. To futz this up is ludicrous. My least favorite flubs follow.

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Ah… history. Many pouring etiquette rules began as homage to the female gender. But in this equal-pay-equal-work era, those niceties have petered out at most restaurants. In wine etiquette class in culinary school (true story), we learned to pour this way: Open the bottle, allow the person who ordered to taste; if acceptable, pour the ladies at the table first, clockwise from the taster; then pour the men on the counter-clockwise trip, ending with the person who ordered the bottle. Bring some class to the table, people, even if you work at Applebee’s.

4. What am I, a moron? When the restaurant runs out of a bottle, the sneaky server suggests a replacement that costs $20 more. Really? If you want to blatantly upcharge, be a little more creative; provide a reason why the fresh offering tastes superior with the food, my mood, whatever. Otherwise, bring back the wine list or grow some ethics.

3. Right temp, right service. Some exalted whites improve with a little warmth but most don’t. Cheap ones especially, like bland beer, are best consumed icy cold. And red wines smack you with alcohol if they’ve perched above the bar fridge for most of their shelf life. Perhaps it’s a management call how to store the bottles, but servers, make a difference by paying attention to how cold or hot they feel. Red bottles at the right serving temperature, whether you’re pouring by the glass or the whole thing, should feel cool to the touch and whites should be slightly sweaty on the outside. (Read more about wine serving temperatures)

2. Fill ‘er up. Good god, can you ease up with the glass filling? Swirl room aerates the juice and I look cool doing it. Yes, it’s Christmas when a generous wine-by-the-glass pour plops in front of me but when serving from a bottle, don’t rush me to the bottom so fast. It’s not helpful, it simply pisses people off. Fill it halfway, or two fingers from the top. Period.

1. Check it, don’t sniff it. Not sure why this cranks me up – or where the silly dalliance originated — but cork-sniffing should be a punishable offense. It’s useful to inspect the cork for mold or crusty crystals (indicating a possible flaw) but taking a reflective whiff will simply expose wine-scented tree bark. Ideally, a server should lay the closure on the table to fight anyone’s urge to use olfactory glands and make an ass of themselves.

Recommended Wine

Achaval Ferrer 2008 Malbec Mendoza Highly acclaimed winery. This malbec tastes so plush and fruity, you’d think you’re biting into a sweet cherry. Friendly tannins, gushing raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and a cigar box-scented finish. Generous and intense with some tart acidity but everything flows really well together. Sw=2. $22. 4.5 stars. (Read more about this winery)

Skip It, Don’t Tip It

Big House Pink 2008 (California) Oh how I long for the days when Randall Grahm ran this place. Incredible and affordable, Big House was go-to reliable. But as a recent swig of this rosé attests, those days are gone. Candied sweet like a syrupy white zin, with misplaced earthiness and strong chemical flavors. Is that FD Red #5 I taste? $10.

Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5. Reach Taylor on Twitter @tayloreason, on Facebook.


One Comment

  1. My pet peeve is when the $8 glass you ordered is out and they offer a $12 glass. I once was at a restaurant where they were “out” of all glasses under $10. Four of us got offered glasses ranging from $12 – $15. If you are out of the $8 glass, offer something else – but charge the guest $8. Better yet, get a better ordering system, it starts to feel like a scam when you are constantly out of your least expensive wines.


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