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Wine etiquette

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
when you order a bottle of wine at a nice restaurant, the waiter usually shows you the bottle and let you have a sip before serving the whole table. my question is: should you take the sip or just let the waiter go ahead and serve the whole table. i'm by no means a wine connoisseur but i say hell yeh, but my friend seems to disagree. what do you think? thanks
post #2 of 45
Definitely take the sip. If you don't take the sip, a waiter will either, a) not serve everyone and merely wait for you, which will make him and everyone else uncomfortable. b) recognize that you are inexperienced, and serve everyone else. The reason you take the sip is to ensure that the wine is still acceptable for your guests. It could have spoiled, or the cork could have gotten it, or air could have gotten in an oxidized it. Take the sip, consider, then nod at the waiter if it's fine. No stress, really. Regards, Huntsman
post #3 of 45
I think the point of the sip is just so you can be sure the wine is not spoiled before everyone at the table starts drinking it. It's just a matter of courtesy and ritual, but on occasion you could get a bad bottle and it would be better that you were the only one to have to spit it out or gag it down. This isn't the time to decide that the wine's just not very good and demand another bottle without paying for the first. Unless it's actually gone bad, you should live with your choice.
post #4 of 45
if you want to know the whole ritual well, take a short course or get a book from the library. if you want to look like you have an idea of what you are doing, do the following: 1.glance at the label of the bottle, it should reflect what you ordered 2. look, briefly, at the cork. if the wine steward hands it to you take it, glance at it, hand it back. if he doesn't hand it to you, glance, look at him and nod. you are looking to see if it is moldy, cracked or falling apart. 3. he will put a little wine in your glass. grip it by the stem, on the table. twirl once, gently, bring to your nose and breath in, briefly, then sip. make eye contact with the waiter and nod. you can say "that will be fine". if you smell anything sour or unpleasant, or taste anything strange, you can raise it with the waiter. you can go your whole life without ever having a problem with a bottle of wine. good luck
post #5 of 45
I agree with globetrotters advice about wine protocol, with the caveat that you need to carefully read the label of the wine you ordered. Often times the waiter will inadvertantly or advertantly bring a wine of a different year(lesser vintage) than the one you ordered. You should read the label BEFORE he removes the cork to make certain he brought what you ordered. As far as j's comment on not being able to return a wine that you don't like I would like to modify that gently to say that if the waiter recommends a wine and you don't like it you can and should return it. A good waiter or sommelier will ask you a lot of questions prior to recommending a wine. By doing that he can zero in on your tastes and match the wine with your tastes and the food. A bad wine can ruin a good meal.
post #6 of 45
I've never sent back a bottle of wine, but I have a fantasy of doing a George Costanza style "Bobo the Monkey" (?) angry dance and doing just that at some time in my life.
post #7 of 45
Quote:
Often times the waiter will inadvertantly or advertantly bring a wine of a different year(lesser vintage) than the one you ordered.
I've never heard of this happening before. I can't afford to buy vintage wine, but I'd be shocked if a reputable restaurant ever purposely switched vintages. In regards to the original post, spoilage does occur in about 1-2% of wines with natural corks. I've only seen it happen once in a restaurant at an adjacent table. For educational purposes ask to see and smell the cork for future reference. The scent is unmistakable once you come across a bad bottle.
post #8 of 45
Quote:
For educational purposes ask to see and smell the cork for future reference.
Oi, I disagree. There's nothing you can smell on the cork that you can't better smell directly from the wine in the glass (unless you're talking about the wine BEFORE it's been opened... can you smell spoiled wine through the cork?) I just think people look kind of silly putting cork up to their noses.
post #9 of 45
On average they say 1 in 10 bottles of wine is bad. I've never seen this high a percent, though that's what they say. Also, don't smell the cork. It won't tell you anything.
post #10 of 45
Whoops, I should have clarified. Check out the cork only on the "bad" bottles of wine if you happen to find one. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to differentiate spoiled wine from a normally fermented bottle, but it will save you a bit of gagging if you're able to spot a half-deteriorated, moldy cork...
post #11 of 45
Quote:
Quote:
Often times the waiter will inadvertantly or advertantly bring a wine of a different year(lesser vintage) than the one you ordered.
"Inadvertantly" is the key here.  Someone in a hurry may grab a 1988, thinking it's a 1986 and not realize it.  I've personally never had it occur, but I know it happens - again, on accident.  The owner of the wine store I worked in during my college years had it happen to him - twice - when he was reviewing the restuarants as a critic. Guess how they scored....
post #12 of 45
Quote:
Often times the waiter will inadvertantly or advertantly bring a wine of a different year(lesser vintage) than the one you ordered. You should read the label BEFORE he removes the cork to make certain he brought what you ordered.
Or sometimes a different wine altogether. I actually had one waiter pour the "test" sip with his hand over the label, in an obvious attempt to hide it - he came to the table with the bottle already opened. Needless to say I rejected it without tasting (it wasn't what I ordered - he said they were out of it). I'll spare you the remainder of the story. Aside from this, I've probably sent back 10-12 bottles over twenty years, and we eat out quite a bit. When in doubt, ask the server what s/he thinks. In nicer places, there's usually no question, they will agree with you. One bizzare circumstance forced me to send back a bottle of Champagne - it was flat. It had the characterstic "pfuff" when opened, but then nothing. Another reason to sample before allowing the bottle to be served is to judge the temperature of the wine. In the US, the whites tend to be too cold, the reds are often too warm. Sampling gives you the chance to say "this white is too cold, leave it on the table, don't put it in an ice bucket..." before the server leaves. Inspecting the cork is important. First, look at the condition. If it is dried out, and/or the server had problems extracting it, pay closer attention to the sip of wine. This cork condition could indicate incorrect storage conditions - or simply a flawed cork. Second, the cork can help confirm the wine is what you ordered. Almost all wineries put their name on the cork, and some also put the vintage on the cork as well (many Bordeux, some Burgundy and Italian reds. I've not seen this as often on American wines). If the year on the cork doesn't match the label, well, you've got a discussion and decision to make. There might be one other area for discussion with the server. I agree it is easy to detect a spoiled or flawed wine; however, some fine wines have what I would call a "barnyard" aroma. I've seen this most often with older red Burgundy. After 20 minutes or so of the wine being in the glass/decanter this will usually dissipate. I cannot describe this any better, so if presented with such a bottle it might be good to get agreement that if that nose doesn't dissipate (and assuming you don't like it), the bottle would be replaced. Now let's all cheer for a better closure: the screw cap.
post #13 of 45
[quote=jekv12,04 Oct. 2004, 4:49]
Quote:
Now let's all cheer for a better closure: the screw cap.
A few years ago, I would have had you commited to an institution for such heresy and make you drink orange Kool-aid fermented under a steam heater... However, after living 'Down Under' for a few years (currently exiled to Adelaide, Australia), I have come to appreciate the 'Stelvin' cap.  On speaking with various wine makers in my area (I live in Australian wine country - I may be exiled, but I ain't dumb...), they rate the corkage rate at anywhere from 10-15% - or 1-2 bottles per case.  They are huge proponents of screw tops over here, and I must say the results are nice - tasted some aged whites; reds are going in the direction of screw tops as well although the ageing remains to be seen. The big problem for most makers over here is the American market - some importers in the States will only take wines in the traditional cork due to the stigma associated with screw tops (think Mad Dog 20/20).  Fortunately, some of the bigger wineries in the US (Kendall Jackson, if memory serves) is putting some of theirs under screw top, which shouldhelp everyone. IMO, there will always be a market for cork - can you imagine a nice, first-growth Bordeaux with a screw cap? From the Far Side of the World, Bryan jeep4wda
post #14 of 45
I've had waiters try to slip my the wrong year possibly dozens of times. the most common way is when the wine is listed on the menu (in a place with only 20 or so wines, say) and you choose a wine that is only 2 or 3 years old. You order the '01 and the waiter brings you the '02 and if you point it out says that they ran out of the '01 and have not reprinted the menu.
post #15 of 45
In regards to the screwcap,... Bonny Doon(sp) has been using them for years and one could argue that most of their wines are great. Philips out of Napa have started using them. More will follow. Sigh,... a great ritual (opening the bottle) may be on its last legs. On the other hand, I don't have to worry about losing my corkscrew anymore...
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