4/12/2013 01:03:00 PM

9 Wine-Service Pet Peeves

The French say a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine, but in our eyes, a meal ruined by an overwrought wine list or a snooty sommelier can be just as bad. We’ve outlined nine of our biggest grape gripes here, and offered suggestions for how restaurants can address them. Read on for the details, and check out a video on how to properly open and order champagne here.

38 comments :

  1. I've been serving wine in restaurants for nearly 20 years. I find a couple of these items lack understanding and many are contradictory.

    2,4,& 8 explain each other. Reserve lists help trim down the size of the list. They also help servers know what price range to recommend in.

    2 & 7 also are rooted in the same problem. The server should never recommend the highest priced bottle. Likewise it is annoying when a guest orders the cheapest bottle. This is generally true because the cheapest bottle has the highest markup and is not a particularly good bottle in most cases. When I go out I will ask, "What would you recommend as a good red/white with a medium/large body in the 30/40/50 dollar range?" This allows the server to make recommendations in the price range that have more going for them than simply being the cheapest.

    5 is absurd. The server is not the one behind charging the corkage feel. We would prefer you order of the list or tip us directly for opening the bottle. The corkage fee goes to the restaurant, not the server. Restaurants are for profit businesses that make money off of selling things like wine. I can't put a big ad for my business on your site for free because you sell advertising. Why would a restaurant allow you to bring in a bottle of wine for free when they sell wine?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree with you David. I'm not certain Simon's top 9 are well balanced (pardon the pun) nor insightful; the obvious service quality points not withstanding.

      Michael
      Andre's Restaurant & Lounge
      Las Vegas

      Delete
  2. I agree David Hayden. As to 5, restaurants are not in the business to serve you at their cost and the best margins are on wine and liquor. Most do not permit you to bring your bottle for good reason. Would you bring your desert and expect them to serve it to you gladly for free? The restaurant ought to at least be able to charge $25 corkage fee or whatever their smallest markup is on a bottle they sell. If you do not want to pay for their service and atmosphere, order takeout and open your own bottle at home.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fabulous comment above . . . our county just this last year made it legal for restaurants to offer the privilege of corkage to their customers. It was a tough battle with many restaurants fighting to repeal the new law for fear of lost revenue. We were all for it as making customers happy is what it's all about. But for those patrons who choose to bring in their own special bottles to celebrate with their special meal, we have the same liability and associated costs as if they had purchased wine from us. The corkage fee amounts to the minimal profit we would have made had a customer purchased our lowest priced wine.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would like to append a couple of these nine. Regarding wine by the glass, I couldn't agree more - I find the selections in most restaurants to be pretty mundane and rapaciously priced. I would also vote for adding half bottles to the wine list. My wife and I often order adventurously and there is usually no way that a single wine will complement each dish. So a half bottle of something and another half bottle of something completely different also keeps us within the legal limits for driving as well as pairing better with the food.

    And my wife and I have a standing bet that the first wine that I order will ALWAYS be out of stock. It's unbelievable how often it happens. And I am curious enough about wine that I don't order the most popular or well known from the list. Why can't one simply note that it is not available - there aren't that many wine lists in a restaurant. A simple star in pencil next to the listing would suffice, assuming that they intend to restock that wine.

    I am always astonished if we order a second bottle of the same wine (boring and unambitious as it is) and the server pours it into a glass with the first bottle's wine still present. Bring me a fresh glass - there is no guarantee that the second bottle isn't corked or has been handled the same way as the first.

    And, to add insult to injury, it might not even be the same vintage! I really dislike places that switch vintages from those on the list without telling the diner that they have done so. Normally it is a more recent vintage and, except in special circumstances, it should not be as expensive as the older wine. I can guarantee that the price on the younger wine was not the same as the older wine. There has been less time in storage and, with reds, it is likely to have not matured as much. And, not surprising, I always ask for a reduced price on the newer wine and rarely am offered a break even though it is warranted.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's a LOT I disagree with here. If you know exactly the wine you want to order, more power to you. For the rest of the world, the average 20+ vine varietals offered can be daunting. "Flowery language"? Has anyone actually spoken to you like this? And yes, wine language is actually a thing that your sommelier has spent years learning. Charging for a corking fee makes business sense. And I've never had a problem with displayed bottles. Wine labels are fun to look at. A good sommelier or server wouldn't recommend the most expensive bottle unless it's actually the wine you're looking for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you, I'm with you on this, Kate. This post sounds like it's from someone who is unfamiliar with the restaurant industry which is bizarre for a zagat article.

      Delete
  6. I have been served in restaurants for more than 50 years. I have experienced every annoying item on this list. A really good restaurant will not knowingly sell a bottle of bad wine. I don't often order the cheapest bottle but, if I know it's good, I sometimes do. I have also ahd hosts ask me to choose a wine because they don't have a lot of knowledge. I usually order ann inexpensvve bottle then because I'm not the one paying the bill. Also the snootiness can take the fun out of ordering the wine. I have had servers that I know well tell me they think there is a better choice that doesn't cost much more and I take that advice in the spirit in which it's intended. David is right about the c orkage fee. Restaurants mark up winee enormously and they want to discourage you from bringing your own.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm going to add my biggest peeve: Overpouring. Wine glasses are not meant to be filled to the brim. And too frequent fill-ups just announce, "Hi, we're trying to get you to buy a second bottle," an unlikely prospect with only two diners. I see this all the time and always ask our server to slow it down, fill the glasses 1/3 full, and let the diners set the pace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. This is a real pet peve, and I agree with 7-9 but one through six either never happen (really, the waiter suggested the Petrus??) or are wrong. Charging corkage is consumer friendly and the tip goes to the waiter, not the house. This seems to be an article in search of a problem to talk about. And it missed the biggest faux pas - overpouring.

      Really? Computerized lists? Which planet?

      Delete
    3. I absolutely hate it when servers just come around and refill glasses without asking. First, it reeks of trying to sell a second bottle. Second, it wastes a lot of wine.

      People have different preferences as to the amount they want to drink. Some want to keep it coming. Others are happy with just one glass. All are perfectly capable of reaching for the bottle and pouring a full glass, or a sip or whatever. We don't need the server to make those decisions for us.

      Delete
  8. My pet peeve is having white white wine chilled to just above freezing. Serve it to me at around 50 degrees. Please.

    I'm not so picky about reds, but they are usually not served chilled at all.

    R Wendell Harwell

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two pet peeves, both based on waiters pretending expertise.

      1. Arguing about chilling young beaujolias. Chilling really depends on the age of the wine, not the color. Whites are typically enjoyed much younger than reds, but not in the case of Beaujolais.

      2. Wrong recommendations, e.g. "oh, we're out of Poulliy Fumé, But we have Pouilly Fuissé, it's from the same vinyard"

      Delete
  9. Being a restaurant owner, I can tell you that we charge a very moderate corakage fee of $10. However, the writer should understand that there is a real expense to running a restaurant (the building, the ambiance, the cute server, the glasses, the dishwasher to wash those glasses, the decanters, on.. on ... and on... Charging a corkage fee isn't a way to get in a consumers pocket, it is quite simply offsetting true costs a restaurant has built in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not even in the restaurant business and I understand this. There are expenses, plus the loss of profit from selling off their own list.

      Delete
  10. I agree with the comment about snooty waiters/sommeliers. At one of the restaurants of a very famous chef at which we were going to spend over $300 for 2, I was aghast at the wine mark-up. For example, a bottle I knew cost about $12 retail was priced at $50. I asked the waiter for a suggestion in the $60 range, and he actually rolled his eyes and sighed. I then asked him if he understood that his tip would be based on my satisfaction with his service. I got my recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Who wrote this article and who made them the authority on this subject. It's obvious that they have no clue on this subject and I find the content insulting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kinda find your comment insulting. The author's name is at the top, whereas your comment has is written by "anonymous". Simon has been to many restaurants as a customer and it's his opinion. He does not claim all-knowing authority. If you've got a particular beef about one of the items, be specific, otherwise we will label you "internet crank"

      Delete
  12. I couldn't disagree with you more, Simon, on #1. That "flowery language" is exactly what is MISSING from most well, and not-so-well, put together wine lists. I've been a dedicated oenophile for 20+ years and still can only muster an educated guess at how most wines on a list will appeal to me. Imagine the average consumer, who may already be intimidated by their lack of wine knowledge, trying to make heads or tails from a list.

    The little time it takes to give a bit of education about each bottle, will surely only serve to excite more people to ante up for a bottle.... not to mention lead to more full-bottle sales instead of single glass orders

    Wine should be friendly... not snobbish

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have two italian restaurants. I've had inumerate amounts of customers thank me. In one restaurant I include descriptions,and the other I have a glossary describing the varietals. People are spending good money and they should get what they like. Have you ever tried to make sense of an Italian wine list? This is how my customers get out of their 'comfort' zones and try new and exciting new wines. An invaluable lesson, that I learned years ago in my advanced wset course.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My thought is: why would a restaurant offer something that the establishment would be offended at by a patron ordering? If I'm offering it to my client, regardless of what it is (or the price), I should be pleased it is chosen and hope my client enjoys it.
    I personally have not ever felt insecure about anything I've ordered at a restaurant.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Also disagree with a few of the list points: Corkage fee is very fair. Much more annoying to be faced with silly markups on poor selection and no corkage as an option. Also, you missed one: poor glasses - makes such a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Not offering corkage at all is a pet peeve. The restaurant is entitled to make money for serving my wine. Some of my wine buddies and I have much better wine than the resturant. Typically, when a restaurant has fine wines they are too young to drink. When I'm told that no corkage is allowed I usually state: Take the $30 bottle on your list, bring me the glasses, charge me $30, pour my wine, keep your bottle and make me a happy customer! Most knowledgable somoliers would want to taste the wines we bring and we are happy to share with them. Over pouring is a huge no no!

    ReplyDelete
  17. REAL PET PEEVES!
    1) Insane markups! I can buy this for $20, you're charging $65?!?
    2) You want me to tip you, why am I pouring it?!? I shouldn't have to touch the bottle!
    3) Some snooty restaurant owners (La Bootikeek Franksoiuze?) don't offer anything I've ever heard of!
    4) Hot wine? I've been to many a place that stored the wine in the kitchen. By the stove!
    5) Clueless servers. Hire em', and I have to edjumikate em'?
    6) Bad writers actually paid by Zagat.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I rarely comment on the articles, but as I read this, I kept thinking how much I disagreed with most of them. So, Simon, I will just add that I am inline with many of the comments listed here; you need to educate yourself on the drivers behind the processes in place, such as corkage fees; I don't mind a reasonable one ($15 -ish), and will try to negotiate it down where I can, but I understand it - restaurant owners give up the revenue of a bottle of wine (probably a good one, if the person is bringing his own)and bear the cost of cleanup on glasses. This article shows that you talked to many an uneducated wine drinker and no restaurant owners at all...

    ReplyDelete
  19. As to Corkage Fee are you kidding? I own a restaurant.
    We are in the BUSINESS to sell wine. Should the Guest be able to bring in his Filet Mignon because he can buy it cheaper and have the Chef cook it to save money?
    What if the Guest wants the wine decanted in our $75 decanter? What if they want to use our Bordeaux glasses that cost us $10 a piece. They break you know with normal wear and tear. The waiter has to spend time polishing the glasses etc. The same wine only costs less at (Costco) if you drink it outside sitting on a sidewalk--chugging it out of the bottle. If you take it home your fractional mortgage payment, electricity, insurance, Riedel stemware, heating and cooling the dining room, dishwashing detergent, etc etc etc have to be "added" to the cost of the wine. Your home = my restaurant.
    Your writer is ABSURD on this point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, and thank you, to everything you said

      Delete
  20. I have a pet peeve that hasn't been mentioned. You order wine by the glass from the menu and the waiter brings back a glass with wine in it already. You don't see them pour it from the bottle so you don't know if it's a cheap house wine or the nicer one you ordered. It doesn't happen often but I've seen it enough. Of course, when I do order house wine by the glass, I'm perfectly fine if they just bring me a glass already filled, preferably over poured... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bitch. We hate you! You are what is wrong with the service industry. Please eat at home from now on and pour as much as you want into that depressingly small glass.

      Delete
    2. Wow, such vitriol! I think you need to take a closer look in the mirror if you want to know what's actually wrong with the service industry.

      Delete
  21. Really!? You're bitching about a BYOB fee? Most wine-snobs don't even tip on the bottle price (or service), so yes I'm gonna fucking charge you for bringing your own bottle to an establishment that that has plenty to offer. Would you bring you own bottle of vodka to pour in you glass of cranberry juice and expect to get it for free.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Obviously a snobbish diner who has never worked in a restaurant before and quite possibly knows nothing about business.
    Great comments on here to this crappy list.
    You don't want too many wines to read through but you want an extensive wine by the glass list, talk about getting a corked glass of wine. You also don't want a separated list for those who do want options. Thanks for thinking of only your own ignorant opinion.
    No, it doesn't cost $25 to open a bottle. Really? Are you truly believing your cause on this one? Liability and, we are a business. If we let everyone bring their own bottle and charged nothing, how do we make money? Why have a wine list? Expecting a proper tip by leaving off the corkage fee is like expecting to get hit by lightning. Most servers aren't taking the chance. Especially with an auto grat you have jut destroyed by bringing your 5 bottles of wine and buying no alcohol, a restaurant's biggest profit.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You all are full of prunes! Wine, as with many pleasures, is a very personal experience. The author's points are all valid, from that person's perspective. The use of the pronoun, we, is a literary option and should not be taken literally.

    ReplyDelete
  24. you're starting to sound like the snob...sorry but poorly done and a bit pretentious

    ReplyDelete
  25. Simple Simon,
    I'll concede eight out of the nine, just to make this quick. Google the cost of a liquor license the next time you get offended by a corkage fee. It's kind of simple.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I really appreciate this journal and that i can positive promote this journal to others in my circle. If you would like technician for you network please visit
    Search engine optimization company Chicago

    ReplyDelete
  27. is that some wines considered natural taste good, others don't, but she doesn't want to hear about it either way. She just wants a nice beverage.
    Your Place to Discover the Worlds Wines

    ReplyDelete