ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

During table service at a restaurant, is the wine tasted before the decanting?

—Joe A., Lakewood, Colo.

Dear Joe,

I think a wine should usually be tasted (and approved) before you fuss with decanting, unless there has been some conversation about it otherwise.

There are a couple of scenarios in which a discussion should happen to make sure the customer and the server are on the same page. For example, if I’m bringing my own wine to a restaurant (one with a corkage policy that I’ve called ahead to verify), I might tell the server to just go ahead and open or decant the wine. After all, if I don’t like it, it’s not like I can send it back.

The other unusual situation is with a particularly old or fragile bottle of wine, where pouring a taste might jostle the sediment a little too much. As a patron, I can say, “Go ahead and decant it first,” or the server can ask, “Is it OK if I decant this before presenting it for tasting, so as not to disturb the sediment?” Either way, that kind of direct communication can clear up both the wine and the expectations, and it warrants a good tip.

—Dr. Vinny


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