Usually I just roll with things and not too much bothers me. But like everybody else I do a have my pet peeves with the wine world. Here, with more than a touch of hyperbole and sarcasm, are a few of them:
Neon-colored plastic corks.
A public service announcement to makers of those garishly colored plastic corks: this is not the ‘70s. Every day is not Halloween. Tone down the colors and stick to the ones that resemble natural substances.
Slice and dice metal capsules:
Ever been happily cutting away on the top of a bottle only to slice the living hell out of one of your fingers? Every time it happens to me I curse out loud and think unkind things about those responsible for the complete lack of forethought to actually use alloys for capsules that can easily be cut with the blade of a corkscrew but don’t just as easily slice our little fingers to ribbons. In fact, I imagine said individuals in a room filled with bottles of wine that are packaged with their flawed products. I’d give them shoddy corkscrews and make them open bottles non-stop for an undisclosed time. There would be no first aid kits in the room, much less Band-Aids; only water and saltines. And no TV. I think Dante wrote about this place a long time ago.
This must be a guy thing as in a heavier bottle has to mean a better wine (pause for Freudian effect), as in when the sommelier or server goes to pour wine at the table and there’s no more wine left. Definitely an awkward moment. Note to wineries: you really don’t need to use bottles that weigh as much as Smart Car. Really. We won’t think any less of your wine if it’s packaged in a regular bottle. It’s a lot more eco-friendly as well.
Really? Well if you absolutely must get more oxygen into your wine I have one word for you: decanter. You might even consider double decanting your wine as in pouring it repeatedly back and forth between two decanters so as to, you guessed it, get a lot of air into the wine. But why stop there. I have a brilliant idea for a wine gadget whose time has finally come. Feel free to take the concept and run to the bank with it. It’s called “the wine frappé.” It’s really like a mini-paint shaker where you snap a small custom fit decanter filled with your favorite vintage into a device, flip the switch and then the machine shakes the living crap out of the wine. It even puts a nice head on it. Then remove the decanter and serve the wine in tall monogram-etched frappé glasses. Et voila! (p.s. I’m just kidding)
Tannin Levels in Petite Sirah
Full disclosure: this was a full-blown post/rant I wrote last week that never saw the light of day. That’s because I sat down and wrote it in a fit of temporary madness but then did the right thing of letting it sit overnight. Good move and one that’s highly recommended because after reading it the next morning I decided that it was … a bit too much. Please allow me to explain. Last week I judged at the Sunset Magazine wine competition and my team’s final mission late morning on day two was to work our way through 31 Petite Sirahs. Now before you leap to any rash and premature judgments, I’ve had more than a bit of experience tasting Petite Sirah over the years and found some of them to be really quite good (Concannon, Ridge, Robert Biale and Stags Leap come to mind). And yes, I also know that there’s a demographic out there that simply adores this ultra-heavyweight denizen of the red grape world and also that the grape even has its own advocacy group that you can read all about at their website (psioveyou.org). All that aside, I’m still going on record to say that tasting those 31 wines was a remarkably unpleasant experience because of the extreme tannin levels. We’re talking full-contact and UFC levels of astringency. Enough already. I will close with but two simple words: tannin management.
Wax Bits on Top of bottles
I’m not sure who came up with the dollop of wax on top of the bottle design. It’s clearly one of those “looks great on the drawing board and the PR team liked it” kind of a things. It was definitely not anyone remotely connected with serving a bottle of wine. Yes, those cheeky little dollops of wax pose a bit of a problem in the wine service department because no one knows exactly what to do with them. Do we scrape them off the bottle before opening? Do we drive the auger right through them like Napoleon charging at Waterloo? And once the cork is removed from the bottle how do we efficiently and elegantly remove them from the auger of the corkscrew? Note to wineries: use a capsule and make sure we can cut the capsule without suffering bodily injury (see above).
Dirty Glassware in Restaurants
This is a major pet peeve. How often is wine served in skunky glassware in a restaurant and the diner, totally unaware, quickly becomes convinced that the wine is flawed and then rejects the bottle. I think it happens a lot more than we’d like to believe. Note to floor staff and especially management: if your restaurant uses good glassware be sure to check the glasses before service and also make sure you’re keeping on top of the glass washer on a daily basis. Check polishing cloths too because they can just as easily be the culprits. Otherwise, even Riedel Sommelier glasses can end up smelling like an aquarium that hasn’t been cleaned out since before Thanksgiving. Not so bueno.
Bad Wine Service
As in not knowing how to open a bottle of wine. Last week I stepped out for a plate of pasta at a nearby joint with some friends. The restaurant was having a wine special that night with half off on selected group of wines taken from the regular list. A great idea no doubt and one guaranteed to drive sales. That was the good news. The bad news was that our server, a handsome young lad who was very friendly and who also had the best of intentions, had absolutely no clue how to even begin to open the bottle. He didn’t even know how to hold the corkscrew. Trust me, I’m not making this up. Fortunately, we walked him through opening the bottle step-by-step, quickly and easily. The lad was a bit embarrassed but appreciative. Note to restaurant managers: if your place sells wine you will, on a CONTINUAL basis, have to train your staff in wine service. There is no other alternative. Sorry, but that’s how it is given the nature of the business and the never ending turn-over of staff.