From a recent Facebook conversation started by our very own Rusty Sly with our Grape of the Night group:
Rusty: Here is a question for you. As most of you know, I travel a lot for business. There is a hotel that I stay at frequently that has a bar with a very nice selection of liquors including Hendricks Gin. Wine selection is so so as it is controlled by the corporate office and the managers cannot buy exactly what they want. This is an upscale hotel that sells many of there wines by the glass. I looked at their shelf when I was there last time and there were 10-15 red wine bottles opened. Some had vacuum caps (I don’t like them) others were just corked. Length of time opened, unknown. Unpopular wines may sit for ever. Bartender does not taste before pouring. I personally have sent glasses back at restaurants where I ordered just a glass as I could tell the wine had been opened for a long time. Is it fair to the consumer? Should wines be dumped after a certain time? What do you think about this practice? Have you sent wines by the glass back?
Larry: The more expensive the glass, the more inclined I would be to send it back. I rarely do this, but I did this at —- after paying for a $15 glass that was flat, no taste at all. The staff there knew nothing about any of the wines offered, but they took it back and gave me something that they called “popular.” It was marginally better.
Eve: Hmm. As far as Rusty’s experience, that’s not a wine bar, it’s just a restaurant. I remember DiMaggio Washington offering his services to some of our local restaurants, to educate the staff, and no owner wanted to pay for that. Suffice it to say, a knowledgeable waiter can increase his tips (just ask my nephew who asked me about wine) a great deal w/just a little education. The average wine consumer, and not this group, is unfortunately driving the market at most restaurants. And, one last thing, I was very insulted at a local restaurant when I did choose to order a $15 glass of wine (I only have a few minutes) and was asked, did I realize the cost. I said yes, and I told her that I expect her to realize, that if it has gone bad, she would have to take it back. Ta da!
Rusty: My question was aimed at any establishment that sells wine by the glass. If you go to a butcher shop to buy meat and it is brown, chances are you are not going to buy. Expectations from a glass of wine should be no less than the quality from a bottle of wine. A bottle of Pinot that is left open for 3 weeks is not going to taste very good. Why should I be expected to pay 1/4 of the bottle price plus a markup that helps protects the seller if he has to dump it out.
Eve: I do agree, again, I think the general wine buying market isn’t like us, or the practice wouldn’t be so rampant in restaurants.
Victor: It takes “A Lotta Love” to keep wine fresh. You gotta love the grape. If its marginal, then add some Cassis, call it a Kir and charge very little. People that like it medium sweet will love it.
Chef Mike: IF a Wine Bar or Restaurant wants to be seen as serious about wine, then they should invest in a series of Enomatic machines (or their equivalent)! IF not then they need to have a solid bar policy in place that requires (demands) staff to either evacuate the air from, or add NO2 gas to, open bottles at the end of the business day. They also MUST note the opening date on the bottle AND if that bottle is not consumed after 3/4 days remove the wine from BTG sale (with some exceptions for white/dessert wines that can be left in the cooler) and Ports & Sherries. The trouble is that most Bar staff & Bar Managers often run the buy the glass wines; AND they may (ha ha) know booze (and perhaps beer); BUT the vast majority of bar keeps that I’ve dealt with (and/or tried to educate about wine) could care less about proper care of BTG bottles so as to would benefit the consumer.. Just sayin’ !
Claudia: Rusty, I’ve had the same experience and I have no problems sending the glass back and asking them to open a new bottle. I shouldn’t have to compromise my experience just because they want to save a few dollars. After all, it’s not like the wine is complimentary, at the end of the meal, the check always seems to appear.
George: Procedures are easy. My closing bartender had to date a not fast moving opened bottles. Than you know the rest.
Rusty: These series of comments has satisfied my curiosity. The three things that I see coming from your comments are as follows. First is profit margin which is the business goal. Second is receiving a good glass of wine that is fresh and represents the wine makers creation when bottled. The third is an overlap and involves education. Not only should the place serving the wine but also for the consumer. Maybe better storage processes could be used to preserve the wines. Bottom line is that we all want to drink fine wines that presents a wineries product otherwise people will form invalid opinions of a wine based on poor quality due to being open too long and/or improperly stored.
Michael: I think that most “educated” wine drinkers would agree that the large majority of wines by the glass are subpar and most often affected by a lack of breathing time or over exposure. Just imagine the fluctuating temperature in a busy restaurant, the constant shuffling of bottles, heat generating accent bar lights, and unknown consumer demands, and you have a recipe for an unpleasant wine experience (generally speaking). I make it a habit to ask for a taste pour of the wine(s) I am interested in ordering. Cannot count the times I have been brought something a notch better than cooking wine (vinegar) at mid teen price range. It got me thinking, should there be some industry guidelines which demands an opening date be placed on each open bottle, or should it be left to the honor system? We must remember that these are businesses for profits and most are aware that the large majority of consumers will just go ahead and drink what they are served or just leave it at the table without complaint.