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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I almost always order the wine when dining with my husband. On several occasions (I can count at least four) at some of the finest restaurants, I have been brought the wrong vintage of the wine I ordered, with no acknowledgement or apology. I asked a few of my male friends who also appreciate wine if they have had similar experiences—they had not. Are there any data that women are treated differently than men in this department?
I don’t think there’s any reason why sommeliers would systematically try to dupe female customers over males with the ol’ vintage switcharoo, and no, I’ve never heard of that or seen any data supporting your theory. Any time a vintage switch has happened to my dining companions or me, I just assume it was because the wine list hadn’t been updated, or the sommelier grabbed the wrong bottle.
I have two theories on what’s happening here. The first is that it actually has happened to your male friends, but they just haven’t noticed. The second is that your beauty dazzles sommeliers, leading to mistakes.
No matter what the reason or how often it happens, you have a right to speak up about it. When presented with a bottle of the wrong vintage, just say, “I ordered the 1996, and this bottle is a 1997.” Either they’ll go back to the cellar and replace the bottle with the correct vintage, or they’ll come back and tell you they’re out of the vintage you ordered, and probably hand you the wine list and let you make another choice. I think the key is to treat it as if it were an honest mistake; otherwise, it might tarnish your meal.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.