Wine Pet Peeves

By / Magazine / January 13th, 2011 / 1

I’m not a picky wine drinker (okay, I am), but my pet peeves stem from a desire to drink good quality and be able to enjoy it. Wineries, wine importers, retailers and restaurants should all endeavour to enhance the consumer’s enjoyment of the grape, not detract from it.

Those who love and enjoy wine may have noticed many of the following annoyances. Someone who finds these pet peeves troublesome shouldn’t be considered picky or pretentious. After all, no one should have to drink from wine glasses that smell like the musty cabinet where they are stored, or suffer a discussion with a restaurant server on whether wine that is oxidized is “supposed to taste like that.”

The following list of wine pet peeves is a compilation based on an informal survey of consumers and wine professionals.

serving and storage temperature
One of the most prevalent issues in restaurants is that red wine is served too warm and white wine is served too cold. It is relatively easy to resolve the white wine problem (leave it on the table instead of putting it in an ice bucket), but the red wine poses a larger problem. When red wine is too warm, the wine becomes flabby and the alcohol becomes more prominent (especially in these heady days of 14 to 15 per cent). It really does affect the quality and enjoyment of the wine. Restaurants spend millions of dollars on design and construction, so there is no excuse for not investing in temperature controlled wine storage as well. Wine is a significant revenue source for many restaurateurs. Serve it at the proper temperature and watch your wine sales surge.

sh*tty hotel banquet wine
Isn’t it time for hotels to actually care about the quality of the wines they serve at banquets as opposed to which agent has the biggest promotional budget? I can’t count how many weddings, fundraisers and galas I’ve attended at top hotels where their “house” banquet swill is not fit for consumption. Hotels are notorious for buying the cheapest plonk available and gouging their clients on the glass price (i.e., buying wine for $5 to $6 per bottle and selling in banquets for $8 per glass). Even if hotels are run by accountants, banquet managers must take a stand and realize that consumers do care about being able to enjoy a nice glass of wine. There are some great values out there, but they are not often found in well known commercially produced wines. Step it up and give your customers a break.

filling it to the brim
A glass of wine should never be more than a third full. This allows the wine drinker an opportunity to swirl and aerate the wine. Swirling the glass is not pretentious, it is practical, because it allows the wine to open and fully express itself after being cooped up in the bottle (releasing the genie, so to speak). If a restaurant has decent sized wine glasses, filling them too full not only prevents aeration, but makes it awkward to consume. Having wine glasses with good sized bowls is not an invitation to see how much of the bottle you can fit in the glass.

just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean everyone has to have it
Restaurant wine lists seem to be becoming more generic. Restaurants often pride themselves on the uniqueness of their food menus. They need to take the same approach with their wine lists. Too often I hear restaurateurs say that their customers only want to drink bottles that they recognize. They’re not giving their diners enough credit. Consumers love discovering new wines, but it is the responsibility of the restaurant to ensure that its staff are empowered with the knowledge and experience to be able to assist their clients in making a selection that will appeal to them. Just because it has a critter on the label, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good, and just because you see the wine in a magazine ad, doesn’t mean you have to put it on your wine list.

it’s not whether you know or not, but how you deal with it
Serving wine that is oxidized or corked is not in and of itself a pet peeve, as wine-by-the-glass can easily be open too long and no one has the ability to identify a corked bottle prior to opening it. But how the incident is dealt with … that’s another story. Just the other day, I was served a glass of wine that was sooooo oxidized. I made the server aware of this and the response was, “that’s the way that wine is supposed to taste.” This tells me two things. First, the server has no idea how the wine is supposed to taste, and/or second, they are trying to convince their customer to drink a bad glass of wine. If you don’t know, check with a staff member or manager that does. How well the situation is dealt with is what will leave the lasting impression with the customer.

you stink
If you are attending a wine tasting, be courteous of your fellow tasters by not pouring on your favourite odiferous perfume or musk. It really does affect both your and others’ ability to taste the wine. Chewing gum while tasting is also not the best idea.

seasoning the glasses
This is not so much a pet peeve, but a wish. All through Europe, even in the most casual restaurants, servers will take the time to season the wine glasses prior to serving a good bottle of wine. What this entails is pouring a small amount of the wine in one glass and rolling it around to coat the entire glass and then pouring the wine into the next diner’s glass and repeating until all the diners’ glasses are “seasoned” with the wine about to be poured. This not only “prepares” the glasses for the wine, but arguably also removes any traces of residual odour on the glasses. Some say the practice has no practical purpose. But the “show” of seasoning at minimum creates attention, which puts more focus on wine, which is always a good thing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Editor-in-chief for Quench Magazine, Gurvinder Bhatia left a career practising law to pursue his passion for wine and food. Gurvinder is also the wine columnist for Global Television Edmonton, an international wine judge and the president of Vinomania Consulting. Gurvinder was the owner/founder of Vinomania wine boutique for over 20 years (opened in 1995, closed in 2016) which was recognized on numerous occasions as one of the 20 best wine stores in Canada. Gurvinder was the wine columnist for CBC Radio for 11 years and is certified by Vinitaly International in Verona Italy as an Italian Wine Expert, one of only 15 people currently in the world to have earned the designation. In 2015, Gurvinder was named by Alberta Venture Magazine as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People. He is frequently asked to speak locally, nationally and internationally on a broad range of topics focussing on wine, food, business and community.

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