Wine Talk

Snooth User: Charles Emilio

Does this also annoy you?

Posted by Charles Emilio, Sep 17, 2009.

Is it just me or anyone else?

When in a restaurant a waiter continually tops up your glass of wine


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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 17, 2009.

Drives me crazy!

And when they give you those tiny glasses to begin with, Uhg!

Reply by dmcker, Sep 17, 2009.

Definitely a poorly trained waitperson if he/she tops the glass too often and too high up the glass. Also annoying is when, at a certain level of restaurant, the waiter (and sometimes even someone higher up the management scale) expects to be doing all the pouring but doesn't show up when it's time to do so. So when I begin pouring for myself or guest he comes running over with a worried/bothered look and tries to grab the bottle out of my hand to then begin pouring...

Reply by Charles Emilio, Sep 17, 2009.

Glad i've got company on this one,
Im pretty sure its a restaurants ploy to get you to finish the bottle and encourage you to buy another one.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 17, 2009.

I have to agree. They wantt o get that bottle emptied as soon as possible.

Dmcker, I am with you there as well. It's gotten to the point that I frequently just tell the waiter that we will be handling our own wine service and to not worry about it. Of course almost all of that wine is BYOB so they aren't as invested in the whole process but in any case I try and keep their involvement in my wine geekery to a minimum.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 17, 2009.

Yes, Charles, that is a big part of what it is, though there's also the misguided aim of earning a bigger tip, and generally layering a (in this case false) patina of 'service' over the restaurant dining experience.

Greg, I do the same thing, even when I don't BYOB. If it's a new place that I don't plan to visit again, and the waiter is particularly annoying, I also reflect my displeasure in the tip.

Reply by GregT, Sep 17, 2009.

If the waiter or waitress overpours the first glass, you have to stop them right there. If they don't overpour the first glass, put the bottle somewhere they can't reach it easily. That usually works except once this guy came over and reached all the way across the table before I was able to fight him back.

But it's not always the fault of the waiter or waitress. One guy filled my glass all the way to the top. It was one of those little round goblet things. We all asked him why he did that and he told us that management wanted him to. I understood because this was an outdoor bistro kind of place and people who went weren't wine hounds. Consequently they thought they were getting cheated if the glass wasn't filled. Thus the tiny glasses and the pour to the very top.

In other places, it's considered "good" service to take care of you and allowing you to pour your own wine is flawed service!!!!!

Of course, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because the staff at the restaurant does not butter your bread, cut your meat, or otherwise "serve" you in the same fashion. For the same reason they want your order quickly and then no matter when your dinner comes, they bring the wine right away. If they don't get the second bottle on the table before the entree comes, the chance that you'll order another bottle goes way down. So now, if I don't bring my own, I just tell them that we haven't decided yet and the when they bring the rest of dinner, I tell them what we want. That kind of works too because they're sweating over whether or not you are going to order and then when you finally do, they're so relieved you actually get better and much quicker service.

Reply by Eric Guido, Sep 17, 2009.

The best is when they continue to top of the glass of someone who is hardly drinking any wine. The rest of the table looks on as the person whose least interested sits with a glass full of wine that everyone else at the table would love to be drinking.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 17, 2009.

Yeah, Eric, especially when it's a very special, aged bottle and there's little left, at a larger table, and you can't just reach and tap the turned-away waiter on the arm or shoulder. I've been tempted to raise my voice once or twice...

Reply by Charles Emilio, Sep 18, 2009.

"The best is when they continue to top of the glass of someone who is hardly drinking any wine. The rest of the table looks on as the person whose least interested sits with a glass full of wine that everyone else at the table would love to be drinking."

Eric, this is not the best, this is the worst.
Luckily for me it happens all the time to my wife and it's me she ends up giving the wine to.

However, being the gentleman I usually distribute it to the other empty glasses at the table.

Reply by afinta, Sep 28, 2009.

YES. This summer in NJ we went to a newer "hot spot" that subsequently was even raved about in the NY Times. I ordered a great bottle of Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio (over priced but at least I knew what I was getting). I watched silently in horror as the waitress practically filled my glass - and then came back and topped us up! That was it - 4 pours! Color me a wine snob but that was awful... I should have stopped her but I was just so dumbfounded.

Reply by Muchkabouche, Sep 28, 2009.

Especially annoying is when the $80 bottle of Cab or Zinfandel is drained, the glasses just emptied, and they want to remove the glasses from the table. NO NO NO !! Let me savor the aromas lingering in the glass for the next hour or so as we take up table space and eat a little dessert. I paid for the smells and tastes.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 29, 2009.

I agree. Love to linger with those last fleeting aromatics. they are sometimes the best of the night!

Reply by TL NJ, Sep 30, 2009.

I recently at a restaurant swore I thought I saw a waiter take away a bottle that wasnt completely empty. I didnt say anything, thinking I was seeing things, but later that evening a few friends spoke up and said they saw the same thing.

Someone recently told me that this is an old trick, and not uncommon - it goes into a big "jug" that is used for sangria, or "house red". Has anyone ever seen this before? This was a first for me - but at the same time, its not something I ever kept an eye on in the past

Reply by Greg Roberts, Sep 30, 2009.

In my experience most waiters here in France won't fill a glass until it's nearly empty. I find it annoying to have a half full glass topped up. Same is true for the water glass.

Another thing, I used to impatient by the slow pace of service here but now when I'm in the US I feel rushed at some places that are trying to turn a table 2-3 times a night.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 30, 2009.

GregR, you should try lunch hour in Tokyo or some other big Japanese city. They try to flip a table or counter seat two or three times during the 12-1 universal lunch hour! ;-(
Sounds like French waiters know better, though frankly I don't mind having my water glass topped up...

And TLuchese I've had to stop a waiter from taking away an unfinished bottle in a few different countries, though the US is, in my experience, far the worst. It always cracks me up how the waiter seems so embarrassed when I call him on it.

Reply by WineFlair, Oct 8, 2009.

DMCKER hit the nail on the head. Mostly being ignored, and then when the waiter spies me filling the glasses at my table, runs over and makes an ostentatious show of pouring, to the point of yanking the bottle out of my hand. You know this is in expectation of a tip and nothing more. So I'm with Greg - even if it's not a BYOB, I handle the wine service unless I know they're competent. And I won't drink out of thimbles or urine specimen cups (except Bourbon, and only on the Marine Corps Birthday).

Reply by Natalie Kronick, Oct 21, 2009.

WELL - this is quite possibly the most humerous post. I will say, from the perspective of being a waitress in a trendy Spanish restaurant for a handful of years, I can TOTALLY relate to what you are saying. However, yes, this all goes back to proper 'table service'. Unfortunately, I wouldn't know if a table had a super special wine or who the NON-wine lovers were. The best solution: communication. The server will NOT be offended. They WANT you to be happy, so if you want to pour your own wine, just request that they not pour the wine, only open it. They should oblige to your requests. Or, put a napkin on your glass between sips if you have a REALLY aggressive waiter. ;)

Reply by courgette, Oct 22, 2009.

TLuchese, I can say from my own experience in the restaurant business that I never heard of a restaurant getting waiters to snag dregs from bottles to use in a bucket of "house red." I can't imagine any waiters actually agreeing to do that-- what's in it for them? No, those waiters were hoping to have a pleasant "cup of coffee" somewhere in the back... and again, I know from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE! In fact, I often did just as Charles suggests above: poured generously (but never egregiously, I hasten to add) around the table, in hopes that they'd order another bottle. When they did, I would then become much more negligent about it, in hopes of my own "cup of coffee" after their departure. It generally worked quite well (from my perspective).

I tasted some pretty interesting wines in those days-- it was the mid-80's, when the CA wine industry was really picking up steam. A rather underhanded mode of wine education, I admit, but like our ex-President, I plead "youthful indiscretion"... and unlike him (he was referring to actions from his late 30's), I actually WAS young (23-26)!

Reply by dmcker, Jan 2, 2010.

So here's a new wrinkle that happened to me (new at least in my experience in the US in recent decades, perhaps old overall). A restaurant serving style I thought had died out long ago and haven't experience in any country for a long, long time.

I have family in Oakland, CA, and when visiting them recently went out to a restaurant called Flour+Water. It's a relatively new restaurant serving Italian food. The name seemed a bit funky until I realized they really were wizzes at all sorts of combinations of those two ingredients. Pizzas, all sorts of pastas, bread salads (though named differently) were all quite good. It's the kind of California casual place where the staff can wear what they want, so it's sometimes hard to tell whether a person walking past the table is a member of the waitstaff, or a customer headed to the loo, unless they have a number of plates in their hands.

That casualness extends a bit too far into the wineservice, though, or so I felt at the time. Bottles are opened at the service counter, tasted by the waiter then brought to the table. Waitstaff doesn't pour the wine, but the bottle is simply set on the table. The wines aren't all that expensive, though the markups are large for what they are.

I have no problem, at all, with them leaving the bottle on the table for me to pour. I didn't like them arbitrarily opening and tasting the bottle themselves before bringing it over, with nary a fare thee well. They seemed surprised when I complained about it. They do allow BYOB for a $10 corkage fee, and I couldn't help but wonder if the waiter would want to taste those bottles, too.... ;-)

So I'm curious if this very oldskool, paternalistic style of service is making a comeback, if anyone else has encountered it, and if anyone thinks I was overreacting by complaining about it (I wasn't raising my voice or such, just asking what they were doing and why they were doing it).

Reply by amour, Jan 2, 2010.

Yes.....I have seen all of the above...and so disapprove as well...but in recent years I HAVE CHOSEN TO CONTROL EVERYTHING IN A MOST DIGNIFIED CONGENIAL it is clear to all and sundry that I prefer to pour when and how the situation demands in my own opinion !!!!! and so they are cautious with me .................yet not at all intimidated.....
by the way, I am not a monster!!!! CHERRS...I am still pouring CRISTAL ......but I also had a really bargain AUGEY (BORDEAX) this CHRISTMAS.....nothing to write about but very good on my palate.

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