For anyone who cares about wine, buying it in a restaurant can be thrilling, fraught with missteps or somewhere in between.
How hard can it be to open a bottle and pour a glass? You’d be surprised. Here are some of my pet peeves.
THE HEAVY POUR
The server pours wine in my glass practically all the way to the top. The pour should be at most three fingers high, leaving plenty of room for the wine’s bouquet — and for swirling. The trick is to catch the waiter beforehand and show how high you’d like the pour.
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BY THE NUMBERS
Is it too much to expect the servers at a restaurant that has a sophisticated, wide-ranging wine list to at least recognize the names of the wines? When I spend time poring over the list and deciding on a wine, it’s discouraging to get the response, “What number is that?” In an ideal world, waiters would be more friendly with the wines, stoked to have a customer ferret out an obscure bottle or favorite label.
MISSING OR WRONG VINTAGE
Some restaurants don’t even bother to indicate the vintage for white wines. The reason quoted? Everybody knows it’s the current vintage. But not every white is as fresh and quaffable as a Vinho Verde. Without the vintage indicated, you’d have no idea that the restaurant is pouring last year’s Arneis or a tired Orvieto. You’re paying a premium; they should get it right.
A good half of the time when you order a red wine, unless it comes from a temperature-controlled wine room, the bottle is too warm. If the bottle doesn’t feel slightly cool to the touch, it needs a chill to show its best. Savvy wine waiters know this. White wines that are too cold are less of a problem because the bottle will inevitably warm up. You can also speed things along by holding the bowl of the wine glass in your hands.
ONLY HEAVY HITTERS
It’s fantastic to see a big collection of important Cabernets and Pinot Noirs, Burgundies and Barolos on a wine list, but when those heavy hitters make up practically the whole list, the wine lover who doesn’t want to spend the equivalent of a car payment on a bottle of wine is left bereft. C’mon, how about giving a little love to the wines under $100?
WHISKING AWAY YOUR GLASS
It happens all the time. Suddenly you reach out to take that last sip you’ve been saving, and your wine glass is gone. Seeing just a splash of wine left in the glass, the waiter has whisked your glass away in some confused idea of good service. Know this: Wine lovers like to linger over their glasses, noting how the bouquet changes, or savoring that very last sip. With great wine, sometimes the last drop is the best.
THE MISSING BOTTLE
You open the wine list. You spend time poring over the categories, sussing out the bottles in your price range. You order the wine. The server disappears for 20 minutes, only to come back and tell you he or she can’t find the wine. You go back to the list, order another wine. Your server returns with more bad news: They don’t have that one either. Why, when wine lists can be easily updated on the computer, isn’t this one current?