We were having a dinner at a restaurant in a five star hotel some time ago when the waiter who came to serve the white wine asked who was going to taste the wine, a ritual which rakes place every time you order a bottle of wine in a restaurant.
As soon as I nodded the ok, and as I continued with my conversation, I noticed that he had literally emptied the whole bottle into four large wine glasses we had at table.
It was wrong on many counts and this is why. First, we were dining al fresco on a hot summer evening and this was white wine so it would have been better to pour just a bit of wine and leave the rest in the wine cooler. Second, maybe there is someone at table who just wants to have a very small glass and therefore that wine may end up going wasted. Third, you might understand that restaurants or hotels may want to up sell but this is way in your face and actually urges you not to order a second bottle because you are afraid that the same thing might happen again.
There are many things which can go wrong with wine in a restaurant. Normally as soon as you set foot in a restaurant, you can instantly know whether the establishment takes wine seriously or not. Just notice where the wine is stored. Many times wine is stored on shelves high up on the walls. It is therefore exposed to light and also heat which are two major spoilers of wine.
Then take a look at the menu. This is a sure sign of whether a restaurant and it’s owner takes wine seriously or not. The choice of wine on that list will be very indicative of the importance they give to wine. Look at whether the vintages are updated or not. be very wary if there are wines on the list without any vintages. This normally means that the restauranteur cannot be bothered with updating the wine list from time to time.
We are not necessarily advocating big winelists though a large choice at times might be indicative of knowledge and a certain pride in offering a great selection. A small winelist selected with care and attention may still work for certain restaurants. But in this case we would recommend that the winelist is changed frequently to allow regulars to experience new wines from time time time.
When it comes to serving wines, restaurants need to ensure that wines are served at the right temperature. This is another mistake that is often made not only with whites which are sometimes served too warm but also with reds which are very often served too warm. If in doubt, serve red wines at 18 degrees.
Some waiters struggle with opening bottle of wines. They say practice makes perfect but this is no excuse even for new waiters. And this is no excuse for opening a bottle at the bar and bringing it to table.
Restauranteurs also need to make sure that they keep the waiters informed of basic information. For example, when serving wine by the glass, they should know what wine is being served. We cannot count the times we asked the question only to get a blank face in return. What is needed here is basic information such as the grape, region, producer if possible and maybe vintage.
And by the way, just because someone has ordered a wine by the glass doesn’t mean that he or she wants to drink plonk. Strict driving rules nowadays limit the alcohol intake so there are many reasons why someone might want to limit themselves to one glass of wine. So a restaurant which offers a choice of wines by the glass or else an interesting selection deserves credit.
And finally a word about the wine glasses. They don’t necessarily have to be big balloon glasses. If in doubt, choose a sommelier’s glass which can be used pretty much for every wine. But please, get rid of those small balloon glasses which are so common and so inappropriate.
Our top tips
1. Keep the winelist updated.
2. Ensure that the vintages are clearly marked on the winelist.
3. If you have a very big wine list, make it available either on request prior to a customer’s visit or else simply post it on your website, That way the client can have an idea from beforehand what he or she intends to order.
4. Have a selection of wines by the glass
5. Serve wines at the proper temperature.
6. Use proper glasses.
7. Store wine in an appropriate place away from light and heat.