Wine service gripes

Sparkling bubbles (Photo: Toni Paterson)

“Why do waiters always hand Dad the wine list even though you’re the wine person?” my ten-year-old daughter queries. You would have thought that we’d be beyond this outdated stereotyping by now.

I have a few gripes about wine service of late, particularly regarding the assumption, by some sommeliers, that the customer knows little about wine.

After arriving late for a swish function, at a two hatted/three glass restaurant, I took my seat and spied some bubbly at a distance. Upon inquiring on the wine, the sommelier replied that it was an Italian sparkling wine “…like Prosecco”. This response sounded a bit odd so I queried whether it was, perhaps, a Franciacorta and he paused, raised his eyebrows, and said with obvious surprise “Well yes… actually, it is.” Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?

Are these exceptions in an otherwise perfect landscape? Unfortunately, not.

When dining at a swish Sydney establishment, my rather brilliant, oenophillic friend, who has a sizeable budget for wining and dining, reported the sommelier walking up to the table and asking him if he wanted wine that was “sweet or dry?” Really? Is that an appropriate first question when someone is about to pay a sizeable sum for their wining and dining experience? That takes one back to the days of “riesling or Moselle?”.

While wine service can often be exceptional, condescending service can ruin an evening, as well as leave a long lasting negative impression about the restaurant.

Training is paramount. Assumptions are dangerous. And no, Franciacorta tastes nothing like Prosecco.

4 thoughts on “Wine service gripes”

  1. Toni Paterson MW
    Toni Paterson MW says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Respect must go both ways. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Gillman Ken says:

    Remember also, all staff have to put up with some real tossers and poseurs. I have, on plenty of occasions, cringed at the comments I have overheard from fellow dinners. Communication, consideration and graciousness, asToni insinuates, go a long way. I have had many splendid exchanges with soms, some involving no spoken word, just a tilted glass and quizzical eyebrow followed by a sniff, nod and new glass and a smile. Remember to compliment, not just whinge.

  3. Kim says:

    It’s not just you, Toni. Happens all the time to me and all the women I know. Seems like the briefest of enquiries could confirm who’s going to chose the wine. (Maybe it’s a sommelier conspiracy to sneak cork taint bottles past the inferior male sense of smell??)

    1. Toni Paterson MW
      Toni Paterson MW says:

      Thanks for your comment Kim. Having an active and engaging interchange with a sommelier can make dining a memorable event for all involved. It is important not to start off on the wrong foot.

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