Sending back wine
"Waiter, this wine is corked!"
So easy to write, so hard to say: One of the most daunting challenges in the world of wine may be mustering the courage to complain when something goes wrong in our glass.
After all, most people prefer to avoid public confrontation, and that goes double when the subject under dispute is as mysterious and complicated as wine. I don't know if it will reassure you to know that even purported experts like your humble scribe sometimes think twice before speaking up about a wine-related problem.
So it was last night, when we checked out a new restaurant in our town, formerly a "Southwestern" spot that reopened recently with a name and image transplant as a trendy Tuscan grill. (For Louisville-area readers, it's Mezzaluna - formerly Alameda - on Bardstown Road.)
Our dinner selections suggested different wines, so we ordered by the glass. My wife chose a Gavi, a Piemontese white, to go with her veal piccata, while I went with a modest Chianti to match a beefy lasagna Bolognese.
All seemed well until the Chianti came. Phew! A dank, musty stink of wet cardboard and damp basements gave sure evidence that the wine was "corked," tainted by the invisible cork-borne mold that ruins a significant percentage of wines stoppered with natural cork. My spouse confirmed my judgement: The wine was spoiled.
What to do? Frankly, I would have felt more comfortable complaining about a "corked" wine in a restaurant with a serious wine program and a knowledgeable sommelier on staff. But this eatery, pleasant as it is, isn't really oriented toward wine enthusiasts. Its wine list is simple and short, and the bar is more oriented toward malt than the grape. I doubted that our friendly waiter would know what "corked" meant, and didn't have a lot more confidence that the bartender would.
What to do? "Put it to the test," a small voice whispered in my ear. "You can always write about what happens."
I called over the waiter and tried to be pleasant but firm. "I think this wine had a bad cork," I said. "Take a sniff of it. Do you get a musty smell?"
He looked puzzled but eager to please, and at my suggestion took the glass back to the bartender for his opinion. "He says he just opened the bottle," he reported back. "But if you like, he'll give you a glass of something else."
That was the right answer. I'm reasonably certain that they weren't up on the mysteries of "cork taint," but it didn't matter. Faced with a glass of wine that obviously didn't smell right, they replaced it, courteously and without argument.
And that, my friends, is the lesson for today: When something is wrong with your wine (or your food), you have a right to ask for a replacement. And any decent establishment should respond positively to a polite, reasoned complaint. Mezzaluna's positive response left me feeling good about the place, and inclined to recommend it to friends. After all, as the old saying goes, "the customer is always right." Within reason, anyway.
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Brentwood Wine Co.
Why in the world would you want to sell your treasured wine?
We can think of a few good reasons: The market has changed, and so have you. You bought too much wine back then; you need cash now. Or your tastes have changed, and it's time to take your gains on the varieties you bought in 1993 so you can buy what you like now. Whatever your reasons for taking wine to auction, Brentwood is the place for you. Here's why:
Brentwood pays sooner! With consignment auction houses, you'll wait months for your money. Brentwood pays in three to five days.
Brentwood pays more! You can count on average auction net or above for your wines.
Brentwood buys your wine outright! There's no risk of a bad auction result or unsold lots.
Free appraisals! Send your list to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to 1-503-638-6737.
Of course selling is only half the game. If you're buying collectibles, Brentwood is your source for centerpiece wines for holiday entertaining. Enjoy the fun and excitement of buying wine at auction ... at Brentwood Wine Co.,
PS: Don't forget to check Brentwood for great buys on Riedel crystal wine glassware for the holidays: they've got some of the lowest prices on the planet!
Speaking of Riedel glassware ...
The Riedel family has been making fine lead crystal in the Tyrolean mountains of Austria for 10 generations, and they're now turning out some 5 million high-quality wine glasses every year. The firm's courtly chief, Georg Riedel, came to Toronto recently to show off his wares, and columnist Natalie MacLean was there. She files this report, an exhaustive overview of wine glasses in general and Riedel in particular:
Domaine Daniel Dampt 2002 Chablis ($15)
Finally, I turn over the wine-tasting pulpit today to my friend and associate Allen Meadows, a leading expert on Burgundy whose quarterly publication, Burghound.com, we're proud to host on WineLoversPage.com. Reporting on this, his featured "Burgundy of the Week," Meadows notes that modest, regional-level Chablis is typically a notorious underperformer, but this offering from Domaine Daniel Dampt is a classy exception. "Intense, pure and elegant with unmistakable Chablis character and a fine steeliness. ... First-rate quality for this level and an excellent choice for a house white, especially at this price."
IMPORTERS: In the U.S., the Daniel Dampt label is imported by Vinalia Imports, Camarillo, Calif, Exceptional Wines and T. Edwards, New York, NY; the Jean Defaix label is imported by Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY. Importers for the U.K. are Ballantynes of Cowbridge; Georges Barbier, London and The Vine Trail.
WEB LINK: Domaine Dampt's Website is available in French and English at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors and compare prices of Dampt Chablis at Wine-Searcher.com:
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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003