You’re dining on the patio in Portofino, feeling chic in your robin’s egg linen-voile maxi shirt dress. (Obviously.)
You order a bottle of Perla del Garda “Madonna della Scoperta” 2017—even though you really have no idea what that means—before going back to gossip about the all-new pricing for your creative business.
(No, but how much do you want to be in this scene right now???)
Then the server returns with the bottle and THE RITUAL OF DOOM BEGINS. They present you the bottle Lion King style, do three somersaults in the air, nuzzle the label against your face, utter a high-pitched mating sound, peer deep into your eyes, and pour you a sample of the wine and then….it’s your turn. 💁
You taste it, as prompted…but what’s really going on here? (And how can you not reveal that you’re actually from a small town in Nebraska where the finest wine is Cardbordeaux—AKA the correct name for boxed wine?)
A common misconception is that you’re tasting the wine to see if you like it—but, the truth is, no one cares if you, me, or the Pope think it’s too dry, too sweet, or too light-bodied. 🤣 The ritual isn’t actually about your personal preference. (Damn.)
Rather, you’re checking for two things:
- To make sure the wine isn’t bad.
If it smells like wet dog, vinegar, cabbage, or nail polish remover…then there’s a flaw with the wine. Maybe the way it was stored. Maybe it was affected by light. Maybe it was oxidized. (And that’s what you’re tasting for—though most of the time it’s fine, so drink up, daddy.)
- To make sure it’s the correct bottle of wine.
This might seem unnecessary, but counterfeit wine is a thing—and so are mixed up bottles. But also? It’s customary to allow you to gaze longingly upon the label as you taste it—a practice that began with the nobility—so that’s why your server might stand there awkwardly holding the label in your face. 😃
In sum, the etiquette isn’t to say, “Eh, I don’t really like it—can I try another?” But, if you do think the wine is spoiled, it’s perfectly fine to ask the sommelier to take a whiff or decant it for you.
Either way, the restaurant didn’t make the wine, so they shouldn’t be offended. It’s okay to to ask for a second opinion!