Not long-ago Mrs. Tiedemann and I were out on a dinner date, at a restaurant with a nice wine list. It was a busy evening at the restaurant and we were next to a table of eight people. As it happens (I am sure you all have experienced this at some point), there was a fellow at the table next to us who was going on and on about wine. It was clear to me that he wasn’t a wine expert because there were a number of his comments that were just flat out wrong.
#1 Wine “Experts”
As you all know, I love to talk about wine. After fifteen years of collecting, making, selling and writing about it I have continually tried to educate myself on the topic of wine. Am I an expert? By no means. What I find really annoying is that the guys (95% of the time it’s guys, not women) have a very large opinion of their wine knowledge. When in reality they don’t know very much at all. They will just not spend the time to educate themselves on wine and wine etiquette. Oh yes, and the more wine they drink they more they know.
#2 Wine served at the wrong temperature
The temperature at which you drink your wine is a very important. This is something that a lot of restaurants and individuals overlook. Generally white wines are served colder and reds are served warmer.
On February 14, 2013, I wrote a blog article on wine temperatures. To recap, here are the temperatures I recommended you drinking your wine at:
- Chardonnay should be served between 55-60 degrees
- Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling between 45-55 degrees
- Champagnes and Sparkling Wines at 45 degrees
- Light Reds between 55-60 degrees
- Cabernet and Merlots between 60-65 degrees
Did you ever notice how many restaurants take a bottle of white wine from a refrigerator and place it in an ice bucket at your table?
When white wines are too cold, they lose their aromas and flavors; they are basically dead or are sometimes referred to as “alcoholic water.” Take the bottle from the ice and set it on the table to warm up. It also helps to pour it in your glass and then hold the bowl of the glass in your hands to warm up.
Generally, it will take 10 to 15 minutes to warm up your glass before it becomes enjoyable. You’ll want to smell it periodically to make sure the wine is opening up. The nose will become more fragrant as the wine warms closer to the proper serving temperature.
Red wine is treated just the opposite in a lot of restaurants. They bring you a bottle of red wine that has been sitting out at the bar or in storage and it will be in the 70+ degree range. This is even more frustrating to me if it is a fairly expensive bottle of wine
As noted above in the temperature range for serving wines, reds are generally served from 55 to 65 degrees. I suggest you take a couple of approaches to chilling your reds down to a drinkable temperature. First, you can ask your server for an ice bucket. When it arrives put the wine bottle in the ice, until it chills down. You’ll need to check it regularly to make sure it doesn’t get too cold. Second, you can take 1 to 2 ice cubes, depending on their size, and gently put them in the glass of wine. You don’t want them to melt in the wine, just chill it. After a few minutes remove the ice with a spoon. Be sure and swirl the wine after removing the ice cubes.
#3 Servers who drain the bottle in your glass
Yet another annoying habit that I run into is when your server is filling your glass near the end of the bottle and turns it completely upside down and tries to empty every last drop from the bottle into your wine glass. When that happens, depending on the age of the wine, any sediment in the bottom of the bottle ends up in your glass. I don’t know about you but I don’t enjoy drinking the dregs. To me it’s like eating fish and getting a bone in your mouth. They are not harmful but I just don’t enjoy chewing my wine.
I wish restaurants selling wine would do a better job of training servers. Simply teaching the basics of bottle pouring to servers could make your dinner experience so much more pleasurable.
#4 Good wine in a bad glass
I have discovered a good glass can’t make a bad wine better but the wrong glass can surely make a good wine taste bad. When your wine is poured into a small banquet-style glass, one with a thick rim or a glass that is thick-stemmed, it really doesn’t do the wine justice. A thicker or fat-stemmed glass is hard to hold and a short stubby bowl doesn’t allow the wine to open as well as in a larger bowl. When you have a glass with a short stubby bowl you also can’t swirl the wine without slopping it all over the table and yourself.
I have found that restaurants with poor quality wine glasses is a fair indication of the quality of its wine list. Do your own comparison the next time you go to a restaurant for dinner.
To understand what happens to the wine I want you to try an experiment at home some evening. I want you to get out as many styles of glasses that you have in your cupboards and line them up on the counter. I want you to have skinny glasses, short ones, tall ones as many different shapes as you can. Be sure to include one good wine glass at the end of the line. I want you to pour a few ounces of wine in each glass. Let them sit for a few minutes.
After that, begin to smell and taste each glass of wine. End-up with the normal wine glass. You will be amazed at how each glass tastes so much different. Some of the glasses won’t hardly taste like wine. This is the same effect you’ll get at a restaurant that doesn’t use good glasses.
Don’t be afraid to send a glass back and ask for a better one. You want to enjoy your wine with dinner so make sure you have the best glass possible.
#5 Cheap, commercial wines offered by the glass
Another way to tell the quality of your restaurant is to judge the quality of their wines offered by the glass. There are many evenings when Mrs. Tiedemann and I go out for dinner and I want just a glass or two with my meal instead of purchasing an entire bottle of wine.
There are thousands of well-made, well-priced and tasty wines from all over the world. There is, in my opinion, no reason for restaurants to offer mass-produced, grocery store quality wines by the glass. Restaurants have an opportunity to mark these cheap wines up as much as 400 to 500%. That is generally why you will find them on the list.
The rule of thumb is that you want to pay for the bottle with the first glass pour. So, if you buy a cheap bottle (say $4 to $5) you would charge $6 to $8 per glass for that wine or even more.
I would much rather pay a few dollars more per glass and get a good tasting wine rather than pay something less and get a wine that tastes terrible. It may take you several times to test the glass pours at a restaurant. If by the second glass (assuming you try several different types of wine) you aren’t getting tasty wine, you can assume their glass pours are way over-rated.
#6 people who don’t drink their wine
Mrs. Tiedemann and I attend and hold a lot of wine dinners throughout the year. This gives me the opportunity to observe how people drink or don’t drink their wine.
At some of these dinners we are drinking relatively expensive wines. What annoys me is when a person lets the server pour wine in their glass knowing full-well they aren’t going to drink it. Lots of people only drink one type of wine (such as red but not white or vice versa). Instead of stopping the server from pouring it, they let it be poured and never touch it! It then gets poured down the drain when the dinner is over. If you were drinking an expensive bottle you may have just poured $10 to $25 worth of wine down the drain. If people wouldn’t let the wine be poured, your host or the restaurant might not have had to open an extra bottle and then perhaps waste part of it.
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Calendar of Events
- February 18 – International Drink Wine Day
- February 29 – Open That Bottle Night
- March 3 – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17 – International Malbec Day
- May 1 – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9 – World Moscato Day
- May 21 – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25 – National Wine Day
- June 26 – International Rosé Day
- June 21 – Lambrusco Day
- August 1-5 – International Albariño Days
- August 4 – National White Wine Day
- August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
- September 3 – International Cabernet Day
- September 18 – International Grenache Day
- November 7 – International Merlot Day
- November 12 – International Tempranillo Day
- November 18 – National Zinfandel Day
- November 19 – Beaujolais Nouveau Day
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day