Quick Recipes and Easy

What To Do When Given Wine To Test In A Restaurant

Restaurants (especially excellent ones) are in the habit of pouring a small glass of wine to the ‘head’ of the table to test it. Usually what follows is an embarrasing charade in which the tester takes a sip of the wine, nods meekly to the waiter or waitress and says ‘that’s lovely, thanks.’ But Why do restaurants do this and what is the proper way to respond?

Many people reckon that it is to give you a chance to check that you like the wine and send it back if you don’t. But this has nothing to do with it – no restaurant is going to open an expensive bottle only for you to say it’s not to your taste and can they open another for you! In fact, it is to give you a chance to confirm that the wine has not been corked. It is estimated that one in twenty bottles of wine (throughout the price range) are corked, and and it effectively ruins a wine.

What is a corked wine?
A corked wine is not one that has bits of cork floating in it – that is just due to a crumbly cork and won’t affect the flavor. Corked wine has been stopped with a mouldy cork, which leaves a musty, dank smell and flavor in the wine. It cannot be predicted, and it is not the fault of the grower – it is simply due to the unreliability of cork, one of the reasons behind the go toward screw caps.

How do you tell if a wine is corked?
This is pretty simple. A fully corked wine will smell pretty dreadful and taste terrible. A mild case of corking will flatten and deaden the fruity qualities of the wine. If you’re not sure if a wine is corked, swish it around the glass, as contact with the air oxidises the wine and exagerrates the corking effect. Wine can also be over-oxidised if it has been exposed to air or stored in a warm location. As a result it will smell nutty and look faded and brown.

What should you do if your wine is corked?
When given a wine to test, give it a quick sniff, and a taste if necessary, and if it is terrible, don’t be worried to say ‘sorry, but I reckon this wine is corked’. It is not the restaurant’s fault, but it is their responsibility, and they should be pleased to replace it on confirmation of your suspicions.
So there you go. No more awkward wine testing moments, and you can impress your dining guests with your knowledge of wine.

Restaurants (especially excellent ones) are in the habit of pouring a small glass of wine to the ‘head’ of the table to test it. Why do they do this and what is the proper way to respond?
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