Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pet Peeve: The Wine List

I’ve never understood this. Why does everyone get a menu, but there’s only one wine list dropped on the table? I guess I understand that it might have started back in the days when the man of the table was automatically handed the wine list because he just chose the wine. Those same times when the woman’s menu had no prices and only the man’s menu had the prices. (I’ve actually been in a restaurant like that before, it was a weird experience. I didn’t even know restaurants still had those menus!) But haven’t we gotten beyond that now?

Anyways, it’s always been a pet peeve of mine. Although I may not be the biggest wine expert, I still want to see the menu. And I always find that I learn a lot by reading the wine list. Seeing how the wines are organized, looking for some of the same wines that show up again and again on menus, finding the wines I am familiar with and seeing what types of mark-ups there are, and of course, just generally continuing to expand my knowledge of wines.

When I’m out with a group of friends, it’s one thing if we all order glasses of wine. Because then we can each pick what we like, and at the price point we want. In some restaurants, the wines by the glass are listed on the food menu. In my mind, that’s the best case scenario. You don’t have to go back and forth passing the list, and you can each have it in front of you.

But what happens when you start looking to order a bottle? And if you’re dining with people you don’t know so well. Or people that may have different tastes in wine or different ideas of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Then what? You end up in a lot of awkward moments. Either while ordering, or worse yet, at the end of the meal when you’re given a bill, and someone’s not happy or surprised by the cost.

I started thinking about all of this when Michael Bauer wrote about this on his blog recently. And it reminded me of a few different experiences. Times when I wished we had each had a copy of the wine list in front of us. Or times when I wish I had been more emphatic about wanting or not wanting something.

When will restaurants save us from these awkward moments and post-dinner regrets? Until then, I’ve still got to practice my wine assertiveness.

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