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,

Is it ever appropriate to send a wine back after initially telling the waiter that the wine was fine? The other night, I was out to dinner with some friends and we ordered an expensive bottle of wine. Although it smelled and tasted fine on first blush, after sitting open for a couple of minutes it began to emit a barnyard smell that was pretty awful. Seeing as I already had told the waiter that the wine was fine, could I still have sent it back?

—Nathan A., Atlanta

Dear Nathan,

Good question. I believe that the finest restaurant service will take a flawed bottle back, even if you accepted it at first. This has happened to me, as I can sometimes miss some flaws on the first sip (TCA, for example) only to have it become more prominent with some aeration over time. Flag down your server or the wine guru there and very politely tell them that you think you may have missed something, and ask them for their opinion. I doubt that a restaurant that prides itself on good service will insist you suffer through a bottle you believe is flawed. However, if the bottle is nearly empty by the time you complain, don't be surprised if you are charged for the wine.

—Dr. Vinny


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