Posts Tagged ‘sommelier’

Sommel… YAY or NAY?

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

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!


Dumbing down wine – has it gone too far?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Those of you who are long time readers know that I really can not stand the remaining pretension that exists in the wine industry. The truth is that aside from select snooty restaurants or the occasional stuck up sommelier it seems to me that A LOT of the pretension that ONCE existed within the wine world seems to have become “socially incorrect”. Even those who think they are brilliant wine connoisseurs seem to hide any possible holier-than-thou attitude.

“I’m not drinking any f*cking Merlot!” Giamati

But at what point is this ANTI-PRETENSION going TOO far?? (more…)

Another rude sommelier

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I went out with a young lady to a wine bar last night.  I have been to this place once before and my experience was quite good.  Despite this bar’s attempt to be “hip” and serve their wines in stemless glasses, my request for proper stemware has been granted on both visits to the location.

But that is NOT what stood out most about last night.  Upon our arrival we were seated by a very warm and friendly young woman.  I asked my date what type of wines she was interested in, and she responded “sweet” (shocker!).  I chose to interpret sweet as “fruity” and explained as much to our server.  She suggested Pinot.  I told her that new world Pinot is generally too “artificially sweet” tasting to me.  And she offered to bring some taste’s of old world Pinot’s.  We happily accepted.  She brought an Italian Pinot and a French Bourgogne.  My date liked the bourgogne (which was quite fruity) while I preferred the Italian Pinot which I found to be more elegant & earthy.

But since we were considering a bottle, we remained undecided.  At which point IT happened.  The sommelier came over.  My last time at this bar I was helped out by a very sweet and un-intimidating female sommelier.   Last night was another story altogether.  The sommelier did not smile once.  He was pushy (or at least it felt that way), cold and suggested we “try” a unique Italian varietal which he believed fit the description of what we were looking for.  I apparently misunderstood his use of the word “try” and thougt he was offering us another taste.  Instead he came over with a new bottle which he presented.  I stopped him before he opened it (thankfully) and told him that I must have misunderstood – I thought he was going to allow us to TRY it before choosing it.  Again, icy cold – NO.  At which point I told him that we would like to taste our wine before ordering a bottle.  He reluctantly brought over a Sangiovese for us to try.  While I was not thrilled with his demeaner, the wine pleased both my date and I and we ordered a bottle.

But boy did we have plenty to talk about.  I was MAD.  Mad that guys like this are keeping genuinely interested people from feeling more comfortable about wine.  It is guys like this who perpetuate the intimidation of the industry and have people instead choosing spirits or beer over wine – fearing that their lack of knowledge combined with people like that are going to make them feel stupid.

OK, deep breath Wine Tasting Guy.  He is not worth getting so worked up about.  But it is just really frustrating.  Not to mention that it is simply bad business.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  I did end up expressing my frustration to the owner so I suppose we will see what happens.

But the point I am making is that while there is A LOT to know & learn about wine, it should be fun, not intimidating,  exciting, not overwhelming and the experts should be warm and graceful not cold and pretentious.

On this snowy NY friday I wish you all a WARM & TASTY weekend!