Is it appropriate for a sommelier to sample the wine that I ordered?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it normal for a waiter to pour wine into an extra wineglass to check it themselves before pouring a sample for the guest?

—John, White Hall, Md.

Dear John,

That’s not a typical practice when it comes to wine service. (Check out our helpful How to Serve Wine Like a Pro video for a full tutorial!) Usually, a server or sommelier will present the wine bottle for visual inspection and then pour a taste for the person who ordered it. The server will then wait for you to smell and taste the wine and then give your approval for them to serve the rest of the guests. (If there’s an issue with the wine, whether it has a flaw or just doesn’t meet your expectations, that’s the time to address it with your server.)

But a server pouring themselves a taste? That sounds like something out of yesteryear, when sommeliers all carried around a tastevin to inspect each wine they served. It’s unusual today, but I’ve seen it done. I remember once telling a server that I thought a bottle was “corked,” and when they brought out a replacement bottle, they joined me in a taste to make the new bottle was good. I’ve also extended invitations to sommeliers to taste a special wine—especially if it’s rare or old.

If you’re ever in a situation where something unusual like this happens and it bothers you, there’s no harm in politely telling them that you’d prefer they not sample your wine.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny sommelier-service

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