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Wine Dis-Service

I recently received an e-mail response from a 1WineDude.com subscriber, in reaction to the previous post Does Wine Taste Better When You're Dining Out? This response got me thinking about restaurant wine service in general, and it struck a cord in me because it touches on one of my pet peeves about wine service in many restaurants:

"...one thing I can control at home is proper rinsing and drying of my stemware. Nothing gets my goat more than shelling out good money for a favorite wine only to find that the restaurant’s stemware still smells of soap or rinsing/sheeting agents. If you encounter this problem when out on the town, don’t feel embarrassed to ask the server to have the glasses rinsed and hand dried again when having a special wine."

Sound advice indeed, and I couldn't agree more with it. For most wines, having a tulip-shaped glass is about all you need to get the maximum enjoyment out of the wine. Picking the right kind of stemware when drinking a special wine can really enhance the aromas and flavors. But I'd rather have a clean glass of any shape vs. a perfectly-matched but smelly glass!

Generally speaking, a little bit of wine knowledge can go a long way in making customers happy. Another pet peeve of mine when it comes to wine service: "the over-pour." Filling a wine glass to the brim makes it almost impossible to enjoy all the aromas of a wine. It's like eating a steak with a napkin draped over it. And just try to swirl the wine without spilling it...

Since we're into complaining mode here, I'll offer another one: serving wine at the wrong temperature. I'm not too precious about this - I just want it close. I'd rather have it too cold, because I easily enough warm the glass up in my hands (unless it's been overpoured!). But getting a really, really cold red or a hot white is a total dining experience buzzkill for me.

Those are my wine service pet peeves. How about yours?

(images: stuff.co.nz, ggpht.com/vincent.vanwylick)


Anonymous said...

Not a complaint about in-person wine service, but some of us do some distance wine buying too. I love the idea of being able to send a wine gift to someone far away and thought I had found a great source, but not so much, as it turned out.

I recently ordered a gift basket with two bottles of wine, glasses and corkscrew from the Jamesport Vineyards. I called and spoke with someone there a week ahead of the event (the wedding of a good friend) and explained that I wanted the gift basket to be there at the hotel where my friend and her new husband were going to spend two days. I had already talked to people at the hotel about whether they would be willing to receive and set up the gift in their room--they said they would be delighted to do that.

My account was charged for the gift and shipping. Unfortunately the gift did not arrive until the Monday after the wedding-- after my friend and her husband had left the hotel. I called Jamesport Vineyards and they apologized, said that they had sent it 3-day delivery by UPS and that it should have gotten there in time. Well, it didn't. I told them I would have gladly paid much more in shipping to assure its delivery. They made no offer to compensate the problem. I left it at that until I later talked with my friend and found that (after they drove back to the hotel to retrieve the gift) one of the glasses had shattered during shipping. I had been disappointed that the gift didn't arrive in time, but really dismayed at the thought that my friends had to open a package filled with broken glass to retrieve their wine.

I wrote to Jamesport Vineyards to tell them about the broken glass (on top of the missed delivery date) and requested a refund of one-third the total they had charged me as compensation. I didn't ask for a full refund because they did get the wine and I think that's fair. They ignored my request. They have not responded in any way.

I still think it was a great idea for a gift, but the execution of the idea was so disappointing. I hope that other vineyards and wine-sellers will offer similar services, but will make sure that there is more attention to detail. And next time I would ask a few more questions.

Andrew said...

As you have now discovered chilling a red wine in a bucket of ice raises plenty of eyebrows here in England... even in a relatively decent gasto-pub

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of dining out as a wine enthusiast. I live in wine country and am amazed at the lack of wine knowledge that many waiters and bartenders often exhibit, even here. It is a real joy when I get one who actually knows what they are doing. It all stems from a restaurant culture here in the U.S. which refuses to properly invest in their staff through training and education. I'm afraid that until attitudes change, these problems will persist.

Anonymous said...

Just as bad as the over fill is the waiter who keeps filling your glass in hopes of getting you to run out of wine and order more than one bottle with your dinner. The wine is brought to the table immediately, and the race is on to see whether he can get you to empty it before the appetizers arrive. Besides keeping your glass uncomfortably full, he finds the person at the table who is least thirsty and fills their glass to the brim. Then, as the main course arrives, he finishes draining the bottle wherever he can find the slightest space and then states in a slightly challenging voice, "The bottle is empty, do you want me to bring another?"

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks all for the excellent comments!

We could construct a very hellish dining experience if we strung together all of these service pet peeves into one night out... :-P

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