Top 12 restaurant wine gripes

Clueless staff and disappointing recommendations

It’s a well understood, if lamentable, fact that more bullshit is spouted in the wine trade than in any other profession bar politics. When you are in the care of an expert who knows his wine list and producers like the back of his hand, who is sensitive and experienced enough to be able to identify what you’re looking for and provide it, the world is a happy, sunshiney place. When your server knows nothing about the wine, or offers a recommendation that bears little or no resemblance to what you have requested or what they bring to the table, the consequent sense of dismay can be acute.

As one commenter for this feature noted, restaurant staff should know as much about the wine as they do about the food, though this is frequently not the case. With high staff turnover a constant problem in the restaurant trade, there’s always a risk that you’ll be stuck with a waiter who doesn’t know what he’s talking about or, worse still, doesn’t know what he’s talking about but pretends he does. In such a scenario, politely ask for the head sommelier to help; or if it’s the head sommelier who you’re already talking to, politely ask for your coat.     

2 Responses to “Top 12 restaurant wine gripes”

  1. pippa Hayward says:

    From a former restaurateur/sommelier (albeit with a reputation for a fairly priced and well chosen list) –
    yes the wine has to contribute to the restaurant’s running costs -which in the Uk and in stand alone restaurants without the benefit of the large margin you can make on room sales – are considerably higher than mainland Europe. If restaurants excused wine from contributing to running costs menus and food prices would have to rise to make the shortfall up . This is not rocket science.
    There is perception amongst some customers that restaurants don’t add any value to wine(in the way that a chef does to ingredients) but a good wine recommendation can make a meal
    Restaurants do have a duty of care to their customers and wines – to provide a carefully chosen selection, sold in a helpful , informative and kindly way with the sensitivity to make the right recommendation in style and budget for every client. Sommeliers are highly trained professionals -customers should expect to pay for their advice as part of wine pricing.
    Our own decision to make a far smaller margin on more expensive wines ensured that we sold those wines and that customers felt they were treated fairly .

    Then there is the question of training – restaurant staff should be taught how to serve wine correctly , not overfill glasses and be aware of the correct temperature -it’s simply part of good service .

  2. Jack Keenan says:

    I find that when I am presented with a bottle of white wine in a fine restaurant, and I taste and approve the wine and the vintage it is invariably too cold. The sommelier then begins to put the bottle in a bucket of ice or a “cold tube.” I say “No!, please it is too cold just leave it on the table.” The sommeliers invariably then say “thank goodness, you know wine…we hate to put it on ice, but most patrons insist!”

    Cold is the enemy of flavour!

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