Lovey! This wine is abhorrent!

So, I’m not really a wine person. I drink beer and whiskey and assorted cleaning fluids. Frankly, wine frightens me ever since I had a woman in a restaurant laugh at me for selecting a Greek wine as the best tasting in a line up.

Anyhoo, the process of buying wine at a restaurant always has intrigued me, and as a fine dining waitress for a few months I had to learn how to present the bottle, pour the wine without dripping, give the head of the table a taste and blah blah blah.

But it occurred to me that I never had a bottle of wine refused. I assume that there are people who taste the wine, hate it, and ask for the chef’s head to be taken off as recompense, but what happens to that wine? Please don’t tell me they throw out $85 bottles of wine because someone didn’t care for it.

Does it go behind the bar? Does the kitchen staff drink it? Whence goes the returned wine?


Fancy restaurants have wine recorkers and can just put the cork back in, or they put the equivalent of a Vac-U-Vin cork into it. If somebody says he doesn’t like it, or he doesn’t think it’ll go with his hamburger and fries as well as some other wine, that doesn’t mean it won’t taste fine to the next person along. However, I’ve never seen or heard of anybody refusing a wine. It’d take some serious stones to say you’re a better judge of wine than the sommelier at a fancy restaurant.

One man’s mead is another man’s poison, after all.

Oh, and Greek wine? Was it a Retsina? If so, no wonder they laughed. Why not just drink Pine Sol?

IME when someone refused a bottle of wine it was because it had spoiled, e.g., turned to vinegar. No, you don’t drink it. You would normally stick it on a shelf somewhere and then get your money back from the wine distributor, or at worst write it off.

In the rare case that someone was just being snotty, and the wine was actually okay, I think we would have just drank it and written it off. But our bartender was a rather giving sort, as (generally) were the ownership. If the owners were around when this happened we probably wouldn’t get to drink it because they would have.

Once a patron has chosen a wine, it’s very bad form to send it back because “they don’t like it”. Wine is usually refused because it’s gone bad.(corked, oxidized or volitile-D.Rosengarten did a good description of each here) In the cases it is refused, most people will ask for another bottle of the same wine. Usually the restaurant can return it to the wine distributor for an exchange or refund. If not, there may be a chef who will cook with it. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it though. In the cases where the wine isn’t bad, and I have seen sommeliers sample it afterwards, it is usually Vac-U-Vin’ed and sold by the glass.

It’s pretty rare for an $85 bottle of wine to be refused for any reason other than mindless pretension. It’s more likely that an $800 dollar bottle will get gonged, and it will be because the wine is undrinkable. With a very good cab that’s been aged a long time, it’s usually either superb or has gone to vinegar. It’s impossible to tell before opening the bottle. If it’s bad, probably even the wait staff won’t want it.

In some cases it might just be a little off, in which case it might still be better than the house red but not what you’d expect from a pricey bottle. In these cases, every restaurant probably has its own policy on what to do with rejected wine, same as with extra food (wrong orders sent back, etc.).

BTW, don’t let some snotty woman laughing at you put you off wine. These people like to feel superior, but wine is about enjoyment, so drink what you like. No matter what all the experts say, taste is a subjective pleasure and everyone is different. For me, I’ll take a cheap pinot grigio over an expensive and highly-rated chard any day.

And here’s why I don’t order wine.

She put three glasses in front of me. She said “tell me which tastes the best to you”

I tasted all three, telling her I know nothing about wine and she said, “just tell me which tastes best”

I pointed to glass two and she guffawed. “THAT? That’s a GREEK WINE!”

I’ll stick with a beer if I’m going to be made to feel like an idiot.


I’d be willing to take on jarbabyj as the Doper who knows the least about wine. But I have a friend who is a genuine wine snob. Usually, I laugh at him as he tries to explain the difference between fume blanc and Chardonnet and why I should care when all I want is a nice stout.

But he did tell me when you should refuse a bottle of wine. It’s not if you just don’t like it. You return a bottle of wine only on the rare occasion that the wine has gone off. If you chose it, and the wine is not spoiled, you’ll just have to accept it. But if the cork’s dried out and the wine is now a $45 bottle of vinegar, feel free to haughtily throw it back in the sommelier’s face.

It will be discarded. Here’s why: When inspecting a bottle of wine, you are not so much making a subjective evaluation of it’s taste, it is assumed you knew what you were getting when you ordered the bottle. Instead, you are being given an opportunity to determine that the wine has been stored properly and has not turned.[ul]When presented the label, you merely need to confirm that this is indeed the type and vintage you ordered. You are welcome to say, “remove this swill from my presence!” at this time, but it is bad form.

The steward will then open the bottle and pass you the cork for examination. Note that you need not give it a pretentious sniff. If the wine has been stored properly, it should be damp, but not moldy. Normally an indicator of improper storage, mold is good a objective reason to ask that the wine be discarded.

Finally you will be asked to taste the wine. You can examine it intently and mutter phrases like, “delightfully fruity petulance,” but this is not a wine tasting. All you really need do is confirm the wine has not turned to vinegar.[/ul]

I must defend Retsina. It’s not a great wine; it doesn’t go with every meal; it isn’t popular in the Yuppie set. But hell, it’s not like it’s Giaccobazzi Rose fercryinoutloud!

Consider the dishes that you would cook with pine nuts. These dishes are enhanced by the flavor of of the pine resin. Try a small glass of Retsina at cask temperature with a meal of stamed Orzo with apricots and raisins.
Greek reds are quite full bodied, dark and acidic without the smokiness of Merlots. They probably come closest to beaujolais from the gamay grape. I highly recommend Kouros Nemea (red)

all quotes from:

Doncha just hate it when you come across a GQ that you can just pounce all over, only to discover that the topic has essentially been answered from every perspective and completely enough to not warrant a comment?

Oh, sorry…guess its just me ;).

I would guess that the woman who laughed at jarbabyj knew little about wine. She only knew what she was ‘supposed’ to like. Insecurity manifesting as snobbery should never be confused with knowledge.

Some Greek wine, is excellent, for example Samena Golden (a white wine from the island of Samos).

I second this. I love wine, and can often be found at Webster’s Wine Bar (will be glad to take you and/or not JarHubby sometime. They have EXCELLENT wine tastings and will gladly and kindly walk you through the basics), but I’ve been known to pick up bargain basement bottles just to see how they are. I also like the Wild Vines blackberry cab or whatever it is. A $5 bottle that probably tastes like Wild Nun or something, but pleases me on occasion. Wine snobs are annoying. And don’t get me started on those cheese people.

Nymysys, “those cheese people” would be horrified by me: I put soy cheese on my tofu hot dogs.

jarbabyj, you should’ve taken the other two glasses and threw them in her face. I bet she would have laughed no matter which glass you’d chosen. She was looking for a chance to be haughty and condescending; otherwise, why bring you a vintage she personally thought was no good?

The British sitcom Chef! is presented in Atlanta on Saturday nights. In last week’s episode, Gareth entered a cooking competition in Lyon, and as a bit of jingoism/national pride, had his sommelier find him an English wine to cook with.

Then when he got to Lyon the wine was mislaid, and he had to go to a local wine shop and ask for “vin du Angleterre.”

It was a funny episode; wine snobbery is a rich mine for story ideas, methinks.

I’ve never had to send back a bottle of wine (just lucky, I guess), but I know of one instance where a bottle of wine was sent back.

A good friend named H__, her sister, and a friend went to a snobish resturant here in LA. The friend is a relatively well-known fiction and military history author, who has this wierd obsession with Teddy Roosevelt. The sister is some mid-level D-girl for some studio or another. H__ graduted cooking school (the one in SanFran - CIA?) about 2 years before, and has been wholesaling wine. Oh, they’re dressed in extremely casual clothes, and They’ve Been Drinking. The sister is on, roughly, her fifth vodka martini.

Anyway, H__ orders a bottle of wine. I forget exactly what it was, but whatever it was, there were something like 6 bottles of this stuff in LA. She tastes, considers, tastes again, considers, and asks for the sommilier. The conversation goes something like this:

H___ “I think this wine has gone off.”
Sommelier “Nonsense. Perhaps the wine is not what the lady expected?”
H___ “No, really. Feel free to try it. I’m pretty sure this wine is off”
Sommelier “This is an excellent bottle of wine. Perhaps the lady is just not familiar enough with wines to appreciate it?”

This, of course, pisses off the drunk sister, who then proceeds to say, at roughly 110 decibles, something along these lines:

“My sister graduated from a top-notch culinary institute, sells wine, and has forgotten more about what this stuff is supposed to taste like than you’ll ever know. If she says the bottle is bad, it is bad. Take this swill away and give us a new bottle” (okay, maybe not the bit about swill).

To answer the OP, in this case the bottle was served to the wait staff and the chef, who all agreed that the wine had gone off.

There was a moral to this anecdote, something about not being intimidated, and that the sommelier is supposed to be there to help you, or something like that, but I forget what it was.

I would add another condition in which it is acceptable to send back a bottle of wine: If your server suggests it and mis-characterizes it.

I’ve sent back a bottle of wine because it had a characteristic that I specifically said I didn’t want. It was poor knowledge on the server’s part and I don’t feel that obliges me to drink a bottle I won’t enjoy. I don’t think that makes me a “snob” but if it does, so be it.

JarbabyJ I don’t do wine as well and I finally figured out why a few weeks back.
It reminds me of Church. (former altar boy)

I’m not a wine snob but I really do enjoy it a great deal, probably too much. I only deal with one kind, California Cabs, which often are to me like the nectar of the gods. At least for them when they’ve reached the 85 bone level, they’re going to be pretty decent unless they’ve been cooked. Should there be discoloration at the top of the cork, this is probably the case but that’s something the steward/waiter should have noticed and, thus, replaced the bottle. I’ve tried most labels at home already before venturing out to pay double at a restaurant. Me thinks sending an $85.00 bottle back because they didn’t do their homework beforehand is pretty cheesy.

Minor wine snob checking in. There are definetly times when wine should be sent back. Improper storage probably accounts for most of these. For example, I was recently given a bottle of inexpensive, mass-market Merlot, something I would not purchase myself. I also knew that this wine had been at Pennsic Wars, and so probably had been exposed to too much heat.

My original plan was to make sangria out of it, as that can survive inferior wine. However, I ended up drinking it at a resturant that had a BYOB pollicy. How did it taste? Terrible, exactly like wet carboard. The cork was perfect and the wine was not vinegar, but if I had paid for this bottle, I definetly would have sent it back.

The same thing can happen in a resturant that has poor wine storage. Of course, this is much less likely somwhere that actually has a somalier, as it shoulf be, consdiering the absurb price of wine in resturants. BUT, what other posters have said is entirely true, don’t be intimidated. It’s your money, make sure you’re drinking something YOU like.

Go out and get the book “Great Wine Made Simple” by Andrea Immer. So many people are overwhelmed by the un-familiar terms and the wine snobs that they don’t think they can learn the basics. This book will show you that if you can taste the difference between skim milk and heavy cream or buttermilk you can understand the difference between the different “bodies” of wine. This is just an example, but how many are more comfortable thinking they could identify the “light-bodied” versus the “full-bodied” wine, but most could identify the type of milk. It is really just as simple once you know what to look for.

It has a great list of wines for learning in various price ranges… you will need six bottles for each tasting, so plan to get some friends involved in the learning process (damn… I’ve got to get some good friends over to drink AGAIN).

You may not end up knowing that a '87 Fuf de Faux is heartier than a '93 Pino Wanko, but you will be able to tell the Sommelier that you prefer a “Crisp Medium bodied Merlot… and I don’t want to break the bank” and I bet you will get a pretty decent wine (i.e. what you like) at a price you can live with.

Any bottle that has turned, we usually just poor down the drain. Not even the dish man would touch it and the chef’s wont cook with it. I have had an instance where whine was sent back to me just because the guy didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Get this; it was a bottle of crystal (sp) champagne. And he didn’t just send back one bottle. We offered him another and he sent that one back also!! He finally settled on a bottle of grand damn (sp) champagne. But that left me stuck with two $225 bottles of opened Champaign. Needless to say, the kitchen and wait staff was very happy that night. I also found out that I don’t like champagne, even the good stuff.