I often order wines by the glass when I go out. Why? Certainly you pay more than you should for a wine by the glass, likely the entire cost of the bottle to the restaurant or even more than the cost of the bottle. That said sometimes I want just a glass of something or I want to try a different wine than the person/people I am with, and sometimes I think the price by the bottle is outrageous.
Unfortunately what I have noticed with greater frequency is that even at established restaurants, wine bars and music venues in New York City, bartenders think that if you order wine by the glass you don’t care what you drink. Over the weekend, I went to a music venue which purports to be much more than that and was served a wine by the glass that I didn’t order.
The bartender probably figured that I wouldn’t notice the difference. When I mentioned it to the waitress, she graciously apologized and comped me a glass of wine which she poured at my table. However, I am sure she didn’t complain to the bar.
Why I am writing about this? I know first hand that this practice happens all over the city, maybe all over every city, and I can understand why as well. That’s not the point though is it. This is much like the brunello scandal on a small scale. Many people knew that Brunello was made with grapes other than Sangiovese but ignored the practice because it was common knowledge. The American customer however who was paying a fortune for Brunello complained loudly that they wanted only Sangiovese in the glass. We know what happened there but the point is something else. If you pay for one thing, people shouldn’t switch what is in the glass thinking that you won’t notice.
As a wine writer, blogger and publicist, I also think this is terrible for brands and that producers should speak up. Say I order a wine by the glass from a producer and the bartender switches the wine because he/she needs to finish something they already have open. If I hate the wine and then write about it, that damages the image of the wine in the eyes of the consumer. Even if I don’t write about wine but just consume it, if you give me a wine I didn’t order and perhaps don’t like, then you’ve just cost the wine producer a client.
This long rant is essentially just a call to have restaurateurs and their bartenders be more aware that the customer needs to be served what they have ordered. These practices only go on with the knowledge of the owners so it is up and down the line that this needs to be addressed. I will not go back to that music venue again and if I do, I will inform the sommelier, also someone I know, what the is going on there, assuming that they are unaware of what happens when they aren’t present. This is totally unacceptable and should be called out in my view.