General

A Little Whine About Restaurant Wine

I’ve never had the privilege of perusing a Michelin Star restaurant’s exclusive cellar before selecting a dusty 30 year old bottle without asking the price. Whatever your level of expenditure, you expect a certain minimum standard and selection. I’ve compiled a list of issues I’ve experienced or witnessed over the last few years.

restaurantfood

A nice meal should be enhanced by a good wine selection and service

Thimble-sized glasses

I have been served wine in glasses that should really have been a bit bigger, but were adequate. In the worst case, I’ve seen a barman remove an 18.7cl (1/4 sized) bottle from a fridge, and pour it into a glass, slowing as the wine neared closer and closer to the top of the rim of the glass, nanometers away from cascading down the sides. Do their glass suppliers charge based on the amount of materials used to produce each one? It’s more likely due to storage space limitations, but these places really should consider a glass that doesn’t require the steady hand of a brain surgeon to prevent spilling it before your first sip.

Warm red wine

Most people will have heard the basic rule, white wines should be chilled, reds should be served at room temperature. It’s a little more complicated than that, but some restaurants take it a bit too literally. The “room temperature” rule was created long before every building had central heating. Many average restaurants seem to keep their reds on a shelf behind the bar, while their staff and customers are sweating in temperatures over 20 degrees celcius, considerably warmer than wine (Other than mulled wine at Christmas!) should be served.

Description-free wine lists

Some wine descriptions can sound a bit pretentious, but fruit descriptors, vanilla, floral notes etc can all be helpful when choosing a wine. At a recent weekend away, the wine list at the hotel’s restaurant took simplicity to a new level. An example of one of the offerings was as follows:

Chardonnay – Australia

That’s it! A grape, and a country. No vintage, producer, region, or description. Whether it was a full-bodied, oaky wine, or a lighter example, who knows?

Lack of imagination

People expect a considerable mark-up when buying a bottle at a restaurant, but often these will be different wines from those found in their local supermarket. At a group meal at an Indian restaurant, I spotted Blossom Hill White Zinfandel – £18! Familiar wines at massively inflated prices just looks like daylight robbery. Something like a Riesling would go well with a spicy aromatic curry, but when something similar couldn’t be found, we shared a bottle of their house white wine, which came with a dull plain white and orange label stating “French White Wine”.

At a time when consumers are better informed than ever and willing to try new things, some bars and restaurants could learn that a few small changes could make a big difference to the dining experience they provide.

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