Is Wine By The Glass The Best Option? Not Always Clear What Is In The Glass

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.


  1. Gee – one can’t take you anywhere without you coming to fisticuffs with the wine staff!

    Pleasantries aside, this kind of passioned response is what the by-the-glass world needs. I think you are wrong about this being common knowledge. If it were, there would be more outrage. Instead it falls into the pit of complaints about dubiously trained wine staff and morally vacuous bartending. Remember the sad truth that not everyone knows or cares about wine.

    As a side rant, I recently went to a wine bar and ordered a flight of reds. The 3rd glass in the flight was corked and I mentioned it to the server. I was brought another glass of corked wine and left it at that. I won’t be going to that wine bar anytime soon.

  2. Hi there. I too have found that some of the waitstaff out there assumes that the guest does not know about wine. I didn’t even realize until you mentioned that glass aspect but is so true, if we can’t see what they are pouring then it works against not only the producer but also those who are trying to learn.

    I ordinarily don’t reveal that I too am a sommelier as I learned from other sommeliers in class that it can irritate them.

    Most of the wine bars I go to have the wine bottles on display so I can at least watch (or if with others, with my third eye). Failing that, I now, after reading this commentary, must pay more attention. I was recently at Metro Wine Bar in the West 20s. Very good service. They waitstaff clearly saw we were serious tasters and I, for one, actually showed the circle sheet I had made up. I hope that is enough for us to rightfully earn the trust we instill in the waitstaff.

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