Here is how NOT to taste the wine, if you are the organizer of a restaurant party and you are responsible for the satisfaction of your guests:

  1. Inspect the bottle.
  2. Sniff the cork.
  3. Allow the waitress to pour a small amount of wine into your glass.
  4. Swirl, shake, sniff, sip, hold the wine in your mouth for a long, thoughtful period as you evaluate it. Swallow.
  5. Pause for another long, thoughtful period.
  6. Announce “It’s good” and allow the waitress to pour wine for the rest of the party.

Clue-phone for anyone who actually does this: it’s pretentious as all hell. You are NOT judging the wine to determine if it’s fine enough for your guests to drink. (“They don’t care what they drink, as long as it burns.”) What you’re doing is determining if the wine has gone bad - i.e. is it “corked”, has the cork rotted and tainted the wine with cork flavor, or has the wine turned to vinegar?

Either of these mishaps makes the wine completely undrinkable, and it’s not a hard call to make. If wine has gone bad, you will hardly be able to force it down your throat. If you have ever had “bad” wine, you know what I am talking about. If you’re uncertain whether the wine is bad or good, it’s good.

Beyond making this basic distinction of “Has the wine gone bad, or is it fit to drink?” your job as a wine-taster has ended. The distinction takes one tiny sip and one second; if you can swallow it, it’s good.

For corn’s sake, drop the silly charade of pretending to judge all the wine’s inner subtle qualities, as if you can even tell what any of them are. That’s not what your job is.

Some people.

Australian Wine Testing

  1. Inspect the cask and the cardboard box it’s contained in.
  2. Sniff the little tap at the bottom.
  3. Grab a couple of the more coordinated kids at the BBQ and get them to fill enough plastic cups for all the people in the backyard.
  4. Wave your hand over the cup between sips to discourage flies, mosquitoes and moths.
  5. DO NOT pause or else flies WILL land in said cup.
  6. Announce, “Shit! None of you bastards brought enough beer! All we’ve got left is this cask crap!”

Um…Don’t sniff the cork, all you’re going to smell is cork.

Hey, that was pretty hilarious!

If you CAN’T judge the wine’s subtle qualities, then why are you ordering the wine at all? Let somebody who knows more than you choose the vino. S/he can taste it any way s/he likes, and you can sit back with a nice glass of beer and ignore the proceedings.

I hate pretentious wine snobs as much as anyone, but I don’t run into so many of them that steam comes out of my ears. And I like to taste the wine so’s I can pat myself on the back and think “Yup, that’s gonna go MIGHTY NICE with the braised duck I ordered.”

I love the taste of wine !!!

Oh. May as well address this, too.

Now, you didn’t specify what SORT of restaurant in which these events took place. If it’s the local Big Boy and the choices are the House Red, the House White, and the House Rose, inspecting the bottle WOULD be slightly goofusy.

On the other hand, if you’re dining in a Class Joint, and the Carte des Vins lists a St. Emilion from Vineyard X at $4.95, a St. Emilion from Vineyard Y at 35 bucks, and a St. Emilion from Vineyard Z at $250, and you elect to go with Vineyard Y, then you BETTER inspect the bottle they bring out, just so you don’t a) get a mouthful of vinegar, or b) receive a mighty unpleasant surprise when the bill is presented.

All right, it was a class joint. I would have inspected the bottle too, if only to make sure I was getting what I paid for.

This is merely another of my “pretentious people make me nuts” rants; I happen to believe the entire culture of wine-drinking has some major problems with silliness. (Not that there’s anything wrong with wine-drinking as such; wine is lovely.)

Didn’t I read once that professional wine-tasters, when blindfolded, sometimes can’t tell red from white?

Trust me, if the wine’s gone bad, you will know it by smelling the cork. It’s happened to me several times and it’s a lot more pleasant to discover it nasally than by taking a sip of vinegar and wondering what the proper etiquete is for spewing wine across the table.

My BIL is a winemaker (from Australia BTW) and he goes through pretty much the OP routine. You really don’t need to sniff the cork, a visual inspection is fine to find out if it’s corked.

He does send bottles back, sometimes when it’s not obvious to the rest of us why. A bottle doesn’t have to be monkey piss to be sent back, just not what it’s supposed to be.

I agree with everything the OP said. However it seems to be customary these days for the waiter/waitress to pour a small amount for the host to taste. I find it irritating. They even do this at chain restaurants. I mean its one thing if you just purchased a $1000 dollar bottle of Petrus, but they even do it with a $10 bottle of E&J! I hate it when they pour my wine first and then look at you waiting for you to tell them its ok. I wanna say “just pour the wine for everone, I know what it tastes like” , but I dont want to be rude to the waiter who is probably required to do this. What is a tactful way to handle this?

Well, I would suggest observing the ritual, taste the wine and give your approval, but it’s my personal feeling there’s a way to be discreet (and thereby really classy) about it, and a way not to be.

For the wine buffs, purists and professionals, I recognize that the components of the wine-tasting ritual are all significant, and I don’t really mean to disparage them utterly. Just try not to show off about it too much. :stuck_out_tongue:


“Tastes like more” is my response when I have to go thru the wine inspection routine. It usually makes the server laugh, although sometimes I just get this baffled look from them.:confused:

If you don’t want to drink a $900 bottle when you chose one at $35, order by name instead of bin number. This happened to a friend who ended up having to split the cost with the restaurant.

lieu: You mean “order by bin number instead of by name,” don’t you?

masonite: re: Cool Tasting Technique. I remember traveling from San Francisco to Mendocino a few years back, and stopping at a few small wineries up in the mountains west of Ukiah…while we were nosing around one of them a huge burly hairy guy in a lumberjack shirt, Levi’s, and stomp boots came in. The sort of guy whom, anywhere else in the country, would be knocking back shots of cheap blended whiskey and chasing them with Pabst Blue Ribbon.

He called for a glass of Cabernet, placed his hand palm down over the base of the glass, stem between his index and middle fingers. Made a quick rotation on the bar with his palm, which caused the wine to slosh and aroma to be released. Lifted the glass by the bowl, took a quick sniff to appreciate the bouquet, and then, almost immediately, while his nose was still full, a mouthful of the wine.

I was petrified with admiration.

And your story, Uke, reminds me of another one.

We were traveling in France, and were in a distinctly non-tourist cafe in a rustic medieval town in Burgundy. While Mr. Pug and I were eating steak frites and drinking a carafe of their house red, a group of local farmers/vintners came in to have a drink at the bar. These guys reminded me of Clydesdale horses in human form: they were HUGE, they wore overalls, and their necks were as red as any backwoods Georgian farmer’s. They bellied up and all of them ordered glasses of Puilly-Fuisse, a delicious white Burgundy, and stood there clutching the small bar wineglasses delicately in their huge hands, pinkies extended, swirling and sniffing. After the wine passed the weighty Gaulish nose test, it was slurped and tasted thoughtfully, and the farmers carried on a prolonged, animated conversation regarding the wine’s quality.

I doubt seriously they were doing this for snob appeal.

When I worked at a restaurant (Ruby Tuesday’s - hardly a center for oenophiles), we were originally instructed to do the little pour into EVERY PERSON’s glass. Now - c’mon. A bottle of Beringer White Zinfandel is going to taste the same as it does at home, unless it’s spoiled. I didn’t really have time to listen to pretentious drones discuss the bouquet and color of this stuff. Eventually, they relaxed the requirement to host’s glass only.

I’m with masonite though - the only reason for this ritual is to ensure that the wine hasn’t gone bad. ESPECIALLY if it’s a less expensive, mass-produced vintage.

I generally agree with the OP, but…

On our honeymoon, my bride and I went to the best restaurant in the area. When the sommelier brought the wine, I thought it was fine, but my spouse wasn’t crazy about it. “No problem, what else would you like to try?”
That was a class joint.

Cheap wine leave one wicked hangover!