How should a sommelier react when you tell her/him a wine is corked?

best restaurants valpolicella veronaMy good friend Adam Japko’s Design and Wine Tour officially came to an end yesterday (although many from the group, including me, are staying on for a couple of days for tasting and touring in Friuli).

After tasting Valentina Cubi’s excellent Valpolicella and Amarone yesterday morning at her estate, we enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip down the road at the superb Enoteca della Valpolicella (above), where the quality of the food was rivaled only by the caliber of the wine service.

The Enoteca’s cellar may very well be the best destination in the appellation for those who want to dig deep into verticals and horizontals of Valpolicella wines.

And the food there… my goodness, the food! Just look at the yellow of that egg below!

white asparagus bassano italyBut the thing that impressed me the most was the professionalism of the sommelier who waited on us yesterday.

Her service and wine knowledge were impeccable, from her presentation of the bottle to a pour that featured the label before the eyes of each and every guest. And her hospitality — in the true sense of the word — was superlative.

In a dining room where she was pouring Cubi’s wines for a group of roughly 25 persons, I was at the last table to be poured the last bottle of Valpolicella she opened.

Unfortunately, our table’s bottle was corked. And when I brought this to her attention, she didn’t raise a glass of the wine to her nose to assess the wine or my take on the wine.

She took the glass from me and simply said, “I’m so sorry. I’ll open a new bottle right away.”

It occurred to me that, sadly, many sommeliers often question their guests’ ability to determine the fitness of a wine (often in their guests’ presence) and that some even refuse to substitute it.

At yesterday’s seating, even with a wine that needed to be replaced, my dining experience was seamless, all thanks to a wine professional who holds service and hospitality above one-uppersonship or virtuosismo.

I never asked her name nor did she and I ever lower the tenor of our formal interaction, addressing each other throughout with the lei as opposed to the tu.

But, man, her wine service was, imho, the apotheosis of viticultural hospitality. #respect

5 thoughts on “How should a sommelier react when you tell her/him a wine is corked?

  1. In several ways this may be “my favorite” post that I have read of yours… giving credit where credit is truly due. Moments like that not only restore your faith in your fellow (woman/man/sommelier) but also make the food, which was already amazing, taste even better.

  2. Happened to me the other day. Some Somms i think need to remove the chip off their shoulder. I never question returns personally, I think it’s rude.

  3. That dish looks wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen white and green asparagus served together. As to corked wine, I once told a server/sommelier at a US restaurant that our wine was corked, and he reacted as if I had questioned his manhood. He did eventually agree that it “might” be corked. And one time in Chateauneuf du Pape I told the server that our white CDP was corked. She called the chef/owner over, who told us that as Americans we were probably not used to drinking properly aged white CDP. He had me convinced that I was wrong, until I took my next sip. But I dropped the subject and we didn’t drink the rest.

    • Yes, it’s more like “the customer is always wrong, unless he/she can convince me otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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