What is frustrating, for an avid wine lover or even a professional, is that some wines do not taste distinctly faulty at first but upon further inspection are clearly flawed. I have made this mistake many times and what it has taught me is that you have to trust your instincts. If a wine gives you pause and you do not have any prior experience with the wine you can ask the waiter or sommelier what the wine is supposed to be like. This way you can determine whether the wine is not quite right or if it is merely the wine’s style. Coming to the conclusion that the wine is faulty after downing half a bottle is bound to ruin your mood and maybe even your dinner.
Restaurants and waiters have widely differing attitudes towards customers that send back wine. Don’t let them intimidate you. After all, they don’t know who you are and what you know (even if it’s nothing!). Trust your instincts and send a questionable wine back, event if you have to ask for another minute to evaluate it. The Winemonkey and I have come across many situations where we wanted to kick ourselves for not sending a bottle back. Situations have ranged from bottles we realized were not quite right after they were half gone (although they were certainly suspect right off), to bottles that the sommelier actually talked us out of sending back (oh, it’s just Brett, is it?).
For those of you who are intimidated by the entire ritual of “testing” the wine for the table (and you have every right to feel that way), remember that your first objective is to confirm that you are being presented the right bottle from the correct vintage. Your second aim is to decide whether the wine is sound. If you are confident and assured, you’ll do just fine. If there is a question in your mind, by all means send it back!
If you have a restaurant wine story to share, we would love to hear it. Send us a quick note in the comments section.