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,

While dining at a restaurant, I had a large amount of sediment (about the size of a nickel) at the bottom of my wineglass. I showed it to the server and the owner, implying that the glass should be "on the house." The owner agreed to comp it, but advised if it happened again, I would have to pay for the glass. Who is right?

—Scott, Dumfires, Va.

Dear Scott,

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what happened or who said what to whom, so I’m not sure there is even a “right” in this scenario. In general, I believe that a customer has a right to bring something that displeases them to a restaurant’s attention, and I also believe that both sides should be as gracious about it as possible.

I’m guessing that if you had that much sediment, it was probably because you were served from the bottom of a wine bottle, including the dregs. If you drank it and enjoyed it, it’s kind of hard to complain about it and ask for your money back. It’s like that bad joke I make when I eat every last bit on my plate and as a server is clearing it, I say, “I hated it.” Yeah, no one laughs.

I’m guessing you enjoyed your wine until the very last sip, when the gritty sediment hit your mouth. In that case, I think it’s OK if you tell the server that you enjoyed the wine until you came across the sediment, and suggest they give you a fresh glass. Or, if that was your last glass of the night, just point it out and say that it was unpleasant because of the sediment.

But even when I’m pointing out something wrong with my food or wine, I never ask or even imply I should be getting something for free. I think that sets off alarm bells for some people. Only if they ask how I’d like to handle a dispute do I suggest that they could leave that off of the bill or offer a replacement.

Of course, when the check comes, you betcha I’m looking over it. If I see that they charged me for something I didn’t like, I’ll bring it to their attention. It might just be an oversight. If it were not, I’d remind them about my experience and ask them to adjust in a way I feel is fair. Hope that helps for next time, if there ever is one.

—Dr. Vinny


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