Sommel… YAY or NAY?

NY Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote last week about Sommeliers at restaurants who take the first sip of wine to ensure that it is sound before arriving at the diner’s table.

Alder Yarrow in his wine blog Vinography, wrote “let sommeliers do their jobs“.

To get the full background you should read the Asimov piece & if interested the Vinography piece.  But in a nutshell, the issue revolves around Sommeliers tasting wine that diners order prior to the diners tasting the wine.  The taste is small and the motives of the sommelier are good –  both Asimov & Yarrow seem to be advocating for this practice.

WHAT! I’m flabbergasted!!  True I have the experience to detect many flaws that those who don’t make wine their life might not have.  And yes, I believe that providing this service to diners IS valuable.  BUT, my belief is that the sommelier should ONLY taste the wine once invited to do so by the diners…AFTER the bottle has been presented to and opened in front of the diner(s).

I DO think that many diners might be wise to ask someone with a more experienced palate to try a wine they are not familiar with.  But what of the bottle presentation?  What of the opening of the bottle in front of the customer?  What of the smelling of the cork (I save corks but don’t fancy smelling them)?

I hear the points my colleagues are making, but think they are missing the point.  Wine service in a restaurant is a time honored tradition.  Part of this is the presentation of the wine to the diner in a restaurant.  If this bottle is being presented to a sommelier to taste in a kitchen only to be brought out to diners already opened, this tradition is being broken, and much like the screw cap, the romance of wine as we know it is fading away…

Maybe I’m missing something here as I admittedly don’t typically dine in five star restaurants with sommeliers and the like.  But if I’m not missing anything, there is something very wrong here.

Happy Sommelier-less restaurant wine tasting!


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