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Dear Dr. Vinny,
With all sorts of ways to preserve opened bottles of wine, why do most restaurants serve mediocre wine by the glass when they have good stuff by the bottle?
Good question, though I believe that wine-by-the-glass programs in general have really improved over the last few years. It still varies, of course—a restaurant’s wine-by-the-glass choices are typically reflective of its wine program as a whole.
Even though today there are better methods to preserve an open bottle of wine, it’s still true that an open bottle runs the risk of deteriorating—and rather quickly. Serious wine programs will invest in systems to keep open bottles in good shape overnight or longer, but there’s always a chance an open bottle will oxidize, which means a restaurant can’t guarantee the quality of that wine. One strategy restaurateurs may take is to avoid delicate, aromatic wines for their by-the-glass program, and instead pick sturdier, simpler wines, hoping they won’t show as many flaws.
If I’m ordering wine by the glass, I look for a couple of things. First off, I’m becoming a big fan of the emerging wine-on-tap programs, which provide consistently fresh glasses of wine. Secondly, if I’m a little nervous about the choices or the restaurant’s wine service, I might ask for a small taste of the wine to sample and see if it’s to my liking and not oxidized. Some restaurants automatically let you taste your by-the-glass choice, a very classy move.
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