If you’ve ordered wine in a restaurant, you are more than likely to have been through the wine tasting ritual, in which the waiter or sommelier presents you with your chosen bottle, to check whether the wine within is to your satisfaction. For many casual wine lovers, this process can be a little nerve-wracking and overwhelming, especially if you’re not quite sure what the exact etiquette for this is. In this blog, we take a look at why wine is served this way, and how you should go about tasting it.
Why Do You Taste Wine Before it is Served in Restaurants?
The main reason for tasting wine is to check that it is free of any faults or flaws. With wine often being the most expensive aspect of a meal out, a guest will want to avoid paying big money for a bottle that does not taste right. With the sommelier or waiter present at the tasting, they can advise you if you think the wine tastes or smells a little off. In the past, this process was used primarily to look out for corked wines, but many wines nowadays will come with a screwtop, and the threat of having a wine infected with cork taint is fairly slim, so in reality, the process of tasting wine in restaurants is largely down to keeping the tradition alive.
How Should You Taste The Wine Offered?
Step 1: Check the Label
The first thing to do when presented with the bottle of wine to taste is to check the label. Look at the producer, year and style of the wine and make sure it is the one you ordered. When selecting the bottle from the wine cellar, the waiter may have accidentally picked up the wrong one, and if you don’t check the label, you may only find out once the bill has come and you’re spending £50 more for a bottle than you intended, as it was a different vintage!
Step 2: Swirl the Wine
Regardless of the type of wine you have ordered, letting the wine ‘breathe’ is essential to getting the best tasting experience, as it helps to release the aromas present in the wine. Once the wine has been poured into your glass, the first thing you need to do is give it a swirl. With the base of the glass kept on the table to avoid spills from overzealous swirling, circle the glass once or twice to sufficiently swirl the wine.
Step 3: Sniff the Wine
The wine’s aroma is one of the biggest factors in how the wine will taste. With your nose over the glass, take a sniff and determine if you like what you smell! The aroma is likely to give away many potential wine faults, so inhaling is a must, as problems such as brett and cork taint can be identified before you have even sipped it!
Step 4: Sip the Wine
The next step is to actually taste the wine. When you sip, you must consider whether the wine lives up to your expectations – does it taste how the menu described it? The first sip of wine can often prove a little too acidic for the mouth, so ensure that you take at least two sips before you make your evaluation. Think about the structure and feel of the wine as well as the taste.
Step 5: Give a Response
The waiter or sommelier is there to ensure that you have the best dining experience possible, so if you detect a problem with the wine, do speak up! How you respond really depends on if you are ordering by the glass or by the bottle. If you have only ordered a glass of wine, your response can consider the taste. If the wine has no faults, but you do not like the taste of it, do not feel guilty about asking to try a different wine.
On the other hand, if you have ordered a bottle, the etiquette is a little different. If there is a flaw in the wine, for example, it tastes oxidized or corked, then you should absolutely send it back, and the sommelier will replace it with a fresh bottle. However, if you simply do not like a wine, then returning a full bottle isn’t usually the done thing. If you are unsure about what wine to order, you can tell your waiter your usual preferences, or request a wine by the glass before uncorking a fresh bottle!
Have you ever had to return a bottle of wine in a restaurant? Let us know what happened in the comments below!