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Wine Wisdoms #13: How to Taste Wine in a Restaurant

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 at 5:00:44 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

winewaiter.gifWhen a waiter offers a taste of your wine prior to pouring you may wonder: Do I sniff the cork? Do I touch the bottle? Swirl the wine?

The purpose of tasting your wine prior to pouring is to check quality and temperature. You want to taste the wine to be sure it is free from cork taint and oxidation. A corked bottle of wine has been infected by a pesky mold called Trichloroanisole (TCA) and an oxidized bottle of wine will have been exposed to excess oxygen, rendering it undrinkable. So, how do you know?

Please do not smell the cork. Smell the wine. Taste the wine as you normally would: swirl- sniff-sip and look for off-aromas like wet newspaper, mustiness, or even a complete lack of smell. These are all signs of a bottle that is suffering from one of the aforementioned problems. If you feel that you’ve got a sick bottle, send it back without hesitation. You should never pay for a damaged bottle of wine.

Then decide if your wine is at the appropriate temperature. Hopefully it has been stored at the proper temperature at the restaurant but if not, have them chill it down if need be. If everything tastes right, give the waiter the OK sign, and he will pour around the table. Cheers!

Look for Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Restaurant Award Winners of 2008, our picks for America’s premier wine-driven restaurants, announced in the upcoming February issue or search our online restaurant awards database.

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2 Responses to “Wine Wisdoms #13: How to Taste Wine in a Restaurant”

  1. I’ve been to some restaurants (mostly Italian ones) where the Red wine has been served too warm for my taste. I’ve never asked to chill a warm red, should i?

  2. Sure Glenn, this happens pretty often and it’s perfectly normal to ask that they chill your red a bit before serving it.

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