Accept or reject
When is it acceptable to reject a wine when you’re dining in a restaurant?
I asked Amanda Yallop, head sommelier at Sydney’s Quay restaurant, for her take on this vexed question. She said a wine can be rejected:
- If it’s not what you ordered.
- If it’s faulty, in other words if it’s corked, oxidised, volatile, or suffering from brettanomyces spoilage.
- You can’t reject a wine simply because you don’t like it.
What is the purpose of pouring a taste for the person who ordered the wine?
“It’s not to see whether you like it or not, but for the purpose of checking quality (see above).”
What is the response of the staff at Quay to a customer wanting to send a wine back?
“Never disagree with the customer. Even if the sommelier thinks the customer is wrong. The moment something is queried, it should be removed, because there will be other individuals at the table and you don’t want their evening spoilt. The rejection of a bottle is always done in front of other people, and you don’t want to embarrass anyone. It’s one of the first rules of hospitality.”
Do Australian diners understand when a wine is ‘corked’?
“Not many understand corked wine (and the opportunity to be familiar with it is less, now that most wine is under screw-cap) but they do understand tired wines. We’re very used to freshness in our wine because of the screw-cap.”
Do you often have embarrassing situations?
“It sometimes happens that a rare imported wine is rejected, and those wines can be very expensive, but we apply the same rule. It saves face. Not long ago someone rejected a 10-year-old Cote de Nuits grand cru, and there was nothing wrong with the wine. But we had a second bottle, and we replaced it. I used the rejected bottle for staff training – we don’t often get the chance to show the staff that sort of wine.”
And finally, a tip for restaurateurs:
“If you’re selling wine sealed with cork, you must have someone on staff who recognises cork taint.”