From the department of “I can already hear the massive shit storm brewing”…
A few months ago, when I was dining with family in a Houston restaurant (that shall remain unnamed), I ordered a bottle of Dolcetto, one of the classic food-friendly grapes of Piedmont, in northwestern Italy.
The server disappeared and swiftly returned with the bottle I had asked for. And presumably because I had asked for the wine list and had ordered the bottle of wine, he poured the first sip — the tasting sip — for me.
I swirled the wine in the glass, smelled it, smelled it again, and said matter-of-factly, “this is great. Thank you very much.”
And then he did something that transgressed the inherent social compact that exists between waiter and guest.
“Sir, taste the wine,” he said.
“The wine is fine,” I said politely, “please go ahead and pour it for our table.”
“Sir,” he insisted, “taste the wine.”
I looked at him incredulously.
“Sir, the other night, I had a customer who smelled the wine and said it was okay. But then, after he tasted the wine, he sent it back. So I have to ask that you taste the wine.”
When in Rome, I thought, do as the Romans do. And so I tasted the wine.
“It’s really great. I really like it. And it’s going to be great with our meal, I’m sure.”
Satisfied that the wine’s fitness had now been unquestionably verified and reaffirmed, he smiled and poured the wine.
This episode reminded me of how uncomfortable most people are when they are asked to determine the fitness of a bottle of wine at a restaurant.