Wine Etiquette Tips For Fine Dining
Wednesday - November 02, 2011
I hope you don’t think I’m snobby, but I do believe in etiquette when it comes to wine.
There are certain ways that wine should be served and certain ways for guests to ask for something without seeming too pushy or ignorant. I know that these things don’t happen all the time, but friends and acquaintances have asked me enough times where it makes sense to elucidate the subject.
In “fine dining” restaurants, the host is always served first with a small amount of wine to ensure that what is being poured is the correct wine and that the wine is sound. It is not poured to make sure that the host “likes” it. It’s one of those deals where once the seal is cracked, you’re not supposed to return it because you don’t like it, kind of like a banana. (Of course, there are exceptions where a restaurateur may indeed take back a wine for any reason.)
Then ladies are served before gentlemen. Quite often the first man skipped over gives the waiter a scowl or “what happened to me” look. But ladies come first in this etiquette.
During the course of the dinner, if a bottle is emptied, it should be emptied for the host, unless he or she directs otherwise. The reasons are twofold: to let the host know that the wine is now finished and to make sure the host gets enough wine since he or she is paying for it.
Even when you are having a wine party and everyone brings a bottle of wine, the server or waiter should let the person who brought the wine taste it first before serving everyone else.
If you think something is wrong with the wine, such as it might be corked or cooked, it is perfectly OK for you to ask the server to check the wine.
The server may send the manager or sommelier, or the server can just take the glass/bottle behind the scenes to evaluate the wine. It shouldn’t be a huge scene. You just want to make sure you are getting a “sound” wine.
Some guests wonder if the wine they order by the glass might be tired because the bottle has been opened for a while. The best way to ask for it would be to ask for a fresh bottle, especially when it is a sparkling wine. Many restaurants insist on pouring the wine from the bottle table side as well. Then you will be able to see exactly how much was left in the bottle.
If a wine that you order from the wine list is not available, it is entirely up to the establishment to decide on how to handle it. They may offer you another wine at the same price, which is the nicest way to handle it. But they may not and it is their prerogative to do so. It is not entirely incumbent upon them to offer a guest a better wine at the same price. Patrons have the choice to not order any wine at all since the restaurant does not have the wine they desire.
Wine is to be shared, and sharing wine with another table or party in the restaurant is quite common. What we need to be aware of is that the restaurant needs to ensure that their guests do not imbibe too much. So, when a friend sends a glass of wine to someone who has already had three and the manager tries to discourage it, you will know why.
In most cases, a little communication will go a long way in averting a disagreeable experience when it comes to anything. It is not so different with wine.
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