Sending the wine back
Most of us prefer to avoid that kind of attention-getting behavior. Unless our wine is obviously "corked" (musty and dank) or "cooked" (flat and pruney from exposure to excess heat), it can be a tough decision to refuse the wine we ordered. This bold action requires us to pit our opinion against that of the wine steward, and it risks a controversy that could spoil an otherwise delightful evening out. It's not an easy choice.
In fact, most good restaurants will quickly and politely honor the diner's request to take back wine for any reason. After all, this - at least in theory - is what the "wine ritual" is all about. But if the wine isn't obviously spoiled, there may be some resistance, and sadly, a few restaurateurs will fight any effort to return the wine for any reason. In an ideal world, "the customer is always right," but in the real world the restaurant's reaction may vary widely from the ideal, and it's pretty much up to you to decide whether the issue is worth fighting over.
Ultimately, though, if you taste the wine and find it spoiled, you should return it and the restaurateur should take it back without any further question. If you simply decide that you don't like the wine because it isn't what you expected, you shouldn't be surprised if the restaurateur objects.
Have you had any interesting, informative or just plain humorous experiences with returning wine in a restaurant? Tell me your stories, by E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine. Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.
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A bargain from Languedoc
This unusual red wine from one of my favorite Languedoc wineries is made entirely from Mourvèdre grapes from old vines, and delicious fruit and earthiness make it a very good value for a penny under $10. Dark ruby in color, it shows fresh red-fruit and the pleasant earthy scents that I associate with this grape. Soft, juicy fruit flavors are consistent with the aroma, with light but sufficient acidity to provide balance. U.S. Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2000)
FOOD MATCH: Just right with garlicky roast chicken.
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Vol. 2, No. 4, Feb. 14, 2000