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Wine Advisor Express:
Wine Service: What's your beef?

A restaurateur may have received more help than he expected when he asked a provocative question in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group the other day.

Under the topic, "Wine Service: What's Your Beef?" he posed this challenge: "I am compiling a list of wine service 'do's and dont's' for the benefit of the service staff at my dining club. If you have been the victim of a particular wine service error, would you please let me know? Your experiences in this regard would be appreciated!"

Before you could say "winelist," nearly 50 responses had come in. All were respectful - maintaining a civil and polite environment is a primary rule of our online wine forums - but he certainly got plenty of advice.

I thought you might enjoy a summary of some of our readers' pet restaurant wine-service peeves; you're welcome to click to the interactive forum (a link is below) to add your own two-cents' worth.

  • Substandard glassware. Too many restaurants that spare no expense on food will kiss off wine service with undersize, overweight wine glasses. A decent, good-size glass enhances the wine experience.
  • Over-filling glasses. Leave room to swirl! Restaurateurs may fear being thought of as cheapskates if they don't fill the glass to the brim, but that's no way to serve fine wine.
  • Serving temperature. Restaurants almost invariably serve white wines too cold to enjoy, and frequently offer reds too warm. Lose the ice bucket, or at least, don't resist requests to take the wine out of the bucket. And particularly in hot weather, reds are best slightly cooled.
  • Hurrying refills. Let diners decide when they want more wine. Over-eager repouring is intrusive, and creates the impression of hustling to sell another bottle.
  • Attitude issues. Treat guests with respect. Be prepared to offer help, but don't treat people like bozoes if they aren't knowledgeable about wine. Present the wine, open the bottle and offer the host a taste, but don't turn simple wine service into a ritual. And if your guest has a problem with the wine, respond positively and respectfully.
  • Staff knowledge. As reader Bob Henrick put it, "One thing that will turn me off a restaurant is a waitstaff that has no clue about the wine. The waiter should be able to discuss the basics of the winelist.It isn't necessary to know all there is to know about each wine ... but knowing what's available ... and knowing the basic differences between wines ... is a good start."

Two related issues - wine-list selection, and pricing and markup, are such deep topics that they deserve separate treatment. We'll take them on another day!

Now, to click directly to this topic in the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, point your Web browser to You're welcome to join in!

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Do you own or operate a wine retail store or related business? Why not offer your customers the Wine Toon Calendar on a point-of-sale display during the holiday season? For information on wholesale pricing and shipment, contact me by E-mail at

Remember, this project helps support and The 30 Second Wine Advisor!

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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