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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What should I say, if anything, when being served in a restaurant by someone who obviously knows less about wine and wine service than I do? For example, one time we ordered a bottle of (current release) Beaujolais-Villages, and it was presented and poured from a basket ... then, when nearing the end, the server took it away because “the rest is full of sediment.” I don’t know whether I should politely correct them, or just ignore it and let them continue their uninformed ways.
Gosh, I wish there was a simple answer to this question. I’ve had my share of cringe-worthy wine service at restaurants, and every situation has to be treated differently. I’d say it depends on how casual of a place you’re in, what the offense is, and what kind of company you’re keeping.
As a customer, you have a right to speak up if you’re unhappy with the service or drinks you’re served. There’s always a tactful, graceful way to express any displeasure, but it may be more useful to think of it as communicating what your expectations are, rather than, “I obviously know more about this subject than you do.”
I think in the situation you described, it’s less important to be right, or to teach a server that a young Beaujolais is unlikely to throw any sediment, and more important to get what you want—in this case, just saying, “Can we get that bottle back? We’re not done enjoying it,” should probably do the trick.
I also think it’s important to read the table. Once at dinner I spoke up about a bottle of flawed wine that was served, and while the restaurant handled it with grace, my dinner companion found my behavior appalling and accused me of acting like a snob. It also depends on how formal or casual a spot you’re in. If I’m in a cozy neighborhood joint and the $40 bottle of red wine is served a little too warm, but the rest of the table doesn’t seem to care, I’m more likely to discreetly slip an ice cube into my glass than to say anything. If I’m in a fancy-schmancy place and paying $400 for that warm bottle, I’m more likely to speak up to the sommelier.
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