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Dealing with the Wine Steward


Gifted Gourmet
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the article from chef2chef

they are mostly formalities, they are done for a reason and you should be aware of each step in order to recognize good wine service:

Your wine will be retrieved, brought to the table, and presented to the person who ordered it with the label facing out.

Check the temperature of the bottle to determine if it is too warm or too cold...

The cork will be presented to you as soon as the bottle is opened....

How does the wine look? Is it bright or is it cloudy or murky?

The smell of your wine can be a good indicator of its state ...

Swirl it to release aromas, smell it like a flower, then taste it....

If you approve of the wine, indicate to the server that you are ready to be served. Your party will then be served clock-wise, ladies first, ending by topping off your glass.

Does this article mirror your experiences with wine service? :rolleyes:

Ever have a negative experience with wine stewards that you might wish to share? :huh:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I had one poor experience recently. Everything was presented by our waiter in the sequence indicated until I took a whiff: the bottle was corked so I declined it. What was interesting was that when the replacement bottle was brought to the table, the waiter spoke loudly to my guests to inform them that their sommelier had tasted the original bottle and said it wasnt' corked.

I spent the next few minutes with the waiter, "sommelier" and restaurant manager tearing little strips from each of them in kind. Needless to say, I'm not going back to that particular establishment.

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Good for you.

If you have any credible wine experience then you would know if a wine was corked or not.

This reminds me of a meal I had in Paris where the second glass of a Chablis from a different bottle than the first glass,( I saw the waiter openning another bottle), ended up being corked. The owner felt it was fine but would open another bottle for me. Which I said was fine.

He then said he would drink the wine and said it was fine, no cork taint.

All night he would hold the glass up and toast me with the corked wine.

By the end of the night I noticed the same glass of wine was still undrunk and he must of conceeded defeat because he presented me with a bottle of Monbaziac(sp) to take home.

Anyone who has opened a bottle of corked wine knows that it gets stinkier and stinkier as the night goes on.

slowfood/slowwine

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I had one poor experience recently. Everything was presented by our waiter in the sequence indicated until I took a whiff: the bottle was corked so I declined it. What was interesting was that when the replacement bottle was brought to the table, the waiter spoke loudly to my guests to inform them that their sommelier had tasted the original bottle and said it wasnt' corked.

I spent the next few minutes with the waiter, "sommelier" and restaurant manager tearing little strips from each of them in kind. Needless to say, I'm not going back to that particular establishment.

Good for you. As a server, I would never (nor would any of my managers), say such a thing. If a guest says a bottle of wine is "off" or corked, then it is. My sommelier would say the same thing. Does that mean that we agreee with our guests conclusions regarding the wine? Of coarse not. But that bottle of wine IS corked until they leave the restuarant :rolleyes::rolleyes:

Derek

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I had one poor experience recently. Everything was presented by our waiter in the sequence indicated until I took a whiff: the bottle was corked so I declined it. What was interesting was that when the replacement bottle was brought to the table, the waiter spoke loudly to my guests to inform them that their sommelier had tasted the original bottle and said it wasnt' corked.

I spent the next few minutes with the waiter, "sommelier" and restaurant manager tearing little strips from each of them in kind. Needless to say, I'm not going back to that particular establishment.

Good for you. As a server, I would never (nor would any of my managers), say such a thing. If a guest says a bottle of wine is "off" or corked, then it is. My sommelier would say the same thing. Does that mean that we agreee with our guests conclusions regarding the wine? Of coarse not. But that bottle of wine IS corked until they leave the restuarant :rolleyes::rolleyes:

Somebody ought to mass market this equipment to restaurants. http://www.wine-tribune.com/Popups/popUpNe...6&LG=1&CS=11091 :raz:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Wine service varies in quality so much that it's quite comical when you end up on the bottom end. When we were having dinner at Tetsuya’s in Sydney six months ago, we ordered an older Australian Riesling to go with the first few courses. As we got to the bottom of the bottle, the sommelier started pouring the wine more slowly, as if to prevent the large chunks of sediment from landing in my glass - everything was looking good until for some reason she turned the bottle upright, moved it to MsMelkor's glass and dumped half the sediment and a half ounce of wine into her glass. Building on her great success in adding chunks to one glass on the table, she returned the bottle to mine and shook the remaining bits into my glass. Job done, she turned on her heel and walked off. We drank our wine slowly, turning the glasses often to avoid the sediment – we successfully drank most of our wine. As we finished the last course we were having that wine with, the sommelier returned, collected our glasses, and while looking down at the glasses, commented on the surprising amount of residual sugar left in the wine.

At Tra Vigne in St Helena, after we ordered a bottle of wine, the waiter disappeared for fifteen minutes then returned with a small table, a candle, a decanter, the whole deal – all this for a current vintage Rafanelli Zinfandel. He removed the foil, twisted the corkscrew into the cork, pivoted the corkscrew and knocked over the decanting table, smashing the decanter on the floor and spilling the wax from the burning candle onto the carpet. Clearly it’s not his fault he’s a klutz, but since he was acting like a condescending jerk when he gave me the guided tour of the wine list, making sure to point out the ‘value section’ twice, I found the whole thing quite amusing.

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the article from chef2chef

they are mostly formalities, they are done for a reason and you should be aware of each step in order to recognize good wine service:

Your wine will be retrieved, brought to the table, and presented to the person who ordered it with the label facing out.

Check the temperature of the bottle to determine if it is too warm or too cold...

The cork will be presented to you as soon as the bottle is opened....

How does the wine look? Is it bright or is it cloudy or murky?

The smell of your wine can be a good indicator of its state ...

Swirl it to release aromas, smell it like a flower, then taste it....

If you approve of the wine, indicate to the server that you are ready to be served. Your party will then be served clock-wise, ladies first, ending by topping off your glass.

Mostly as it should be with a couple of trivial errors.

I can't remember ever testing the temperature of a bottle, nor seeing it done by any of my wine expert friends.

It doesn't actually mention pouring the tasting sample into the glass (or is this being just too pedantic)

We'll pass over smelling it like a flower, just being twee. If it smells as it should then you usually don't even need to taste it.

The worst thing is "If you approve of the wine". You are not testing it to see if you like it, you are testing it to check that it isn't tainted in any way and that the contents in the bottle match the label on the bottle (although the practice of label switching and putting plonk in re-used bottles of better wine has almost died out). If it passes these tests then the wine is fit to be served whether you "approve" it or not, after all it was your choice.

Edited by britcook (log)
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The worst thing is "If you approve of the wine". You are not testing it to see if you like it, you are testing it to check that it isn't tainted in any way and that the contents in the bottle match the label on the bottle (although the practice of label switching and putting plonk in re-used bottles of better wine has almost died out). If it passes these tests then the wine is fit to be served whether you "approve" it or not, after all it was your choice.

True. To me, approving of the wine includes:

1. Checking for as-close-to appropriate temperature as possible. If it's hot, the bottle contents are probably cooked (it has happened), and I've been offered frozen bottles on the other extreme.

2. Checking that it's the correct wine (many places I've been to try to switch in a younger vintage and charge the same pricing)

3. Checking if it's corked or oxidized.

I will also comment on whether I feel that decanting is required. I remember one place that wanted to decant everything because they had a bunch of decanters and the owners thought decanting was part of the dining experience.

If I've made say an inappropriate match, it sits beside me and I pick something else. That's my mistake; everything else should be the responsibility of the establishment to try and maintain some semblance of good storage.

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I had a brief but mostly satisfactory reminder of the importance of paying attention during wine service the other day.

I oredered a half-bottle of '98 Chateau Meyney -- kind of a budget selection for the restaurant we were in, Le PAradou -- and, being in the middle of conversation kind of whiffed the wine and took an absent-minded sip and waved OK to the waiter, despite a vague feeling that something wan't right.

By about half-way through the first glass, it was clear that the bottle was corked. Not badly corked, where it smells like a basement carpet after a bad flood, but not right, nonetheless. I called in Ms. Busboy for nasal and moral support (she rarely drinks red wine and hadn't tased this) the sommelier over and asked him to give it a sniff. In retrospect, I think that's probably a good approach --asking, rather than telling or worse, whining. The sommelier quickly backed me up and produced another half of the wine, and the difference between the two was obvious from the first sip.

The onlt bad part? When we went to Bistro du Coin later for a nitecap. we saw the same bottle behind the bar, for a third of the price. :shock:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I think that's probably a good approach --asking, rather than telling or worse, whining. 

That's the one that usually works, when I come across a wine that is corked or oxidised I always ask the sommelier/steward/whatever his opinion of the wine and if he wants to know why he has been asked over (before he has tried it) I usually say something like "it doesn't seem quite right" and let him make the decision (which, so far, has always been the correct one - replacemet)

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I used to frequent a very nice local restaurant, and meet other members of the local vintners' board of directors, of which I am a member, in the bar for a glass of wine and informal discussion. The former staff made an effort to know all their 'regulars' and always made eye contact, smiled, made us feel warmly welcomed and basically spoiled us rotten. We loved that staff! I always ask for a new waitron's/busboy's name, and I always tip generously. (Read: if it's hard to do math after several bottles of wine, I round up. :hmmm: )

When the restaurant owner began to produce wine and plant a vineyard, he hired a new chef/management team that changed all the parameters, and basically lost the old staff. After three visits in which I couldn't get a glass of wine, none of the bar staff would make eye contact with me, and I was ignored in favor of male visitors, I ranted to Dan that I was never going back.

So the owner gets wind that Dan's unhappy, and poor Dan wakes up from a Saturday afternoon nap to find the owner bouncing on the edge of his bed, with a gift of several bottles of wine and an invitation to come back to the restaurant.

So we went back. The same young bar manager who had been repeatedly chilly to me comes over to our table, fawns all over Dan, offers a special bottle to try, and decants it for air because it's so young yet. During all this drooling, he never once made eye contact with me. How do I know? Because I kept smiling and trying to catch his eye, hoping he would toss a spare crumb of the conversation to me.

I don't enjoy wine service, or the wine, when I'm treated this way. I ordered a glass of the owner's proprietary wine (which is really really good), and took myself off to another table to visit with friends.

As a woman, I've been ignored and passed over on many occasions by wine stewards, but I'm usually relaxed about it. However, to have one of my favorite local haunts revert to this behavior just brings it to my attention all the more that these condescending attitudes still exist.

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Mary Baker

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My wife goes all traditional on me when we get to a restaurant swank enough to do formal wine service, so I always end up ordering, but not necessarily picking, the stuff. If she wants to do the tasting, or I want her to, I just point the sommeliere in her direction when the bottle is presented, and I've never had one so much as bat an eye. I don't think sommelieres should be faulted for defaulting to tradition in the absence of a signal from the table, but they should (and have always been, for me) be able to make adjustments without my having to clear my throat and announce loudly "the lady will be tasting the Mersault tonight."

'Course, we never had Rebel Rose's guy, either.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Good for you.

If you have any credible wine experience then you would know if a wine was corked or not.

This reminds me of a meal I had in Paris where the second glass of a Chablis from a different bottle than the first glass,( I saw the waiter openning another bottle), ended up being corked. The owner felt it was fine but would open another bottle for me. Which I said was fine.

He then said he would drink the wine and said it was fine, no cork taint.

All night he would hold the glass up and toast me with the corked wine.

By the end of the night I noticed the same glass of wine was still undrunk and he must of conceeded defeat because he presented me with a bottle of Monbaziac(sp) to take home.

Anyone who has opened a bottle of corked wine knows that it gets stinkier and stinkier as the night goes on.

Actually, it's not just experience: some people are much more sensitive than others to TCA taint. I myself seem to fall into the insensitive camp: if asked, I would have to admit that I have never been aware of corking, as such, in anything I've ever drunk - which, over several thousand bottles, is highly improbable. I *have* been aware of many bottles that just didn't measure up to my expectations, and suspect that they were corked, but I never smelled wet cardboard or tasted anything like what's usually described.

Having said that, if you are employed as a sommelier, you pretty much are required to be able to tell.

As to bad experiences... Recently I had a wine steward who seemed to be wedded to the notion of serving me pinot noir, even though it was an extensive list and I had asked for something unusual. Got the feeling he was afraid of taking a chance on me not knowing what I was saying.

A couple of years back I went to one of Philly's poshest spots for a nightcap. I decided to splurge, and ordered a glass of the '63 Fonseca. When it came, it tasted pretty much like a midrange Ruby Port, which told me it had been opened too long. I asked for a replacement glass, and, to their credit, the sommelier brought one over quickly. Since they allowed me to keep the original glass, we at the table compared the two, and included the som. in the tasting. He had to concede the enormous difference, but instead of copping to keeping a bottle around too long he gave me a story about British versus Portuguese bottlings, and bottle variation. I would have preferred the straight poop.

Those are about it. I usually have a good experience with wine service. I think that's in part because I tend to ask for the stuff on the list they like/love, but which I might not be familiar with, and make it clear that I prize their advice. Encountered some fascinating stuff that way.

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I asked for a replacement glass, and, to their credit, the sommelier brought one over quickly. Since they allowed me to keep the original glass, we at the table compared the two, and included the som. in the tasting. He had to concede the enormous difference, but instead of copping to keeping a bottle around too long he gave me a story about British versus Portuguese bottlings, and bottle variation. I would have preferred the straight poop.

You have taught some of us something quite valuable here! Thanks for your input, Capaneus!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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