Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

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z_hart
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Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#1 Post by z_hart » January 14th, 2019, 6:09 am

Any hints, tips or tricks on determining a bad bottle of wine when it comes directly out of the restaurant cellar at 55 degrees? I've had a few bottles before, mostly older vintages (Napa Cabs and Bordeaux's), that I have thought were flawed, but only after the wine warmed up a bit and the flaws were more apparent.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#2 Post by rsmithjr » January 14th, 2019, 6:34 am

My experiences that 60% of the time it's immediately apparent with the wet cardboard/musty smells. Also wines will be closed with an off smell. Sometimes this blows off.... other times gets worse. If I feel a bottle is bad I will express it immediately to the sommelier.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#3 Post by Steve Slatcher » January 14th, 2019, 6:35 am

Chat with the somm, and ask for time to allow the wine to warm. Cradling the glass in the palm of your hand will warm up a small sample in a few minutes.

Also, if I noticed a fault after the wine had been poured (but before much had been drunk) I'd still complain

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#4 Post by Brian Gilp » January 14th, 2019, 6:51 am

Like Steve noted, if I’m not sure I ask to let it sit a few minutes to get a better idea as to if it’s flawed or not. How that works seems to depend on if there is a Somm or not. In places with a Somm, if they didn’t serve the wine, the request for time usually results in a very quick visit from the Somm and more often than not, he/she ends up replacing the bottle before I have even made a final verdict.

Things can get way more interesting at places who don’t have a Somm and maybe don’t fully understand wines. I have had a couple of real interesting experiences with places like this where the waiter/waitress didn’t understand what was the problem or what I wanted done. In one place, I had to practically fight to get a replacement of the same wine. She wanted to bring me something different thinking it was the wine I didn’t like and didn’t understand it was flawed. I did eventually get a replacement bottle that was sound and since I had a little of the first in my glass was able to show here how the first wasn’t correct. Another time, I sent back two bottles as corked and the third was still corked. I’m ashamed to admit that I accepted this bottle but I really didn’t think a third rejection wasn’t going to result in a positive outcome.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#5 Post by John Morris » January 14th, 2019, 7:21 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 6:35 am
Chat with the somm, and ask for time to allow the wine to warm. Cradling the glass in the palm of your hand will warm up a small sample in a few minutes.

Also, if I noticed a fault after the wine had been poured (but before much had been drunk) I'd still complain
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#6 Post by larry schaffer » January 14th, 2019, 7:52 am

I think it's important to discuss here what a 'flaw' is in a wine? I know that sounds simple to explain, but is it?

We all have different thresholds for picking up most things, including TCA, brett, VA, and a few other 'questionable' things.

TCA is relatively straightforward, and a restaurant should definitely take then bottle back and replace if there is even the slightest hint of it.

But VA? Brett? Tougher to figure out what 'policy' should be because everyone picks them up differently.

Interested to hear what others have to say, especially those working on premise.

Cheers.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#7 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng » January 14th, 2019, 8:12 am

Are you extremely sensitive to TCA?

I am admitted relatively insensitive to TCA but rarely have a single bottle that’s corked at a restaurant much less 3 of the same wine.
Brian Gilp wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 6:51 am
Like Steve noted, if I’m not sure I ask to let it sit a few minutes to get a better idea as to if it’s flawed or not. How that works seems to depend on if there is a Somm or not. In places with a Somm, if they didn’t serve the wine, the request for time usually results in a very quick visit from the Somm and more often than not, he/she ends up replacing the bottle before I have even made a final verdict.

Things can get way more interesting at places who don’t have a Somm and maybe don’t fully understand wines. I have had a couple of real interesting experiences with places like this where the waiter/waitress didn’t understand what was the problem or what I wanted done. In one place, I had to practically fight to get a replacement of the same wine. She wanted to bring me something different thinking it was the wine I didn’t like and didn’t understand it was flawed. I did eventually get a replacement bottle that was sound and since I had a little of the first in my glass was able to show here how the first wasn’t correct. Another time, I sent back two bottles as corked and the third was still corked. I’m ashamed to admit that I accepted this bottle but I really didn’t think a third rejection wasn’t going to result in a positive outcome.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#8 Post by GregT » January 14th, 2019, 8:26 am

Is the question about etiquette or about how to make the determination in the first place?

If the former, I'd get the waitress or waiter or busboy or someone to contact the somm and have a conversation with him/her. If it's about how to make the determination, that's on you. If you're doubtful, do the same thing and ask the somm to try it. If it's TCA, usually it's apparent right away, after which you're essentially confirming your initial impression. But if it seems like something is off and it gets more apparent with time, call the somm back and ask again.

And keep in mind that not all somms are able to detect every flaw. Also, as Larry said, your assessment of something as a flaw may just be that particular wine. So if you're ordering a wine you don't know, ask beforehand about the characteristics of the wine.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#9 Post by Bryan Carr » January 14th, 2019, 9:34 am

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 8:12 am
Are you extremely sensitive to TCA?

I am admitted relatively insensitive to TCA but rarely have a single bottle that’s corked at a restaurant much less 3 of the same wine.
I'm quite sensitive to TCA and have had the bad fortune to get two in a row at a restaurant one time at which point I just ordered something different. It's hard to say how often I get corked wines at restaurants, but I'd say definitely on the order of 3 or 4 times a year, probably the same ratio to how often I get them at home (maybe 2% of the time?).

I'm always surprised/bummed when I get a glass pour from what looks to be close to the end of the bottle which is corked.

The worst was when I went to a winery here in town on a busy "event" weekend and the person serving in the tasting room didn't believe me that the wine he poured me was corked and just kept on serving it after tersely telling me I was wrong (I wasn't).
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#10 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng » January 14th, 2019, 9:58 am

2% seems somewhat low if you’re TCA sensitive; I probably get a corked bottle once every couple years; perhaps to not TCA sensitive people the bottles just taste not very good rather than clearly flawed unless there’s a high concentration of TCA. I’ve definitely tasted bottles others have called corked and thought they were fine while others seemed clearly corked.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#11 Post by Brian Gilp » January 14th, 2019, 10:27 am

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 8:12 am
Are you extremely sensitive to TCA?

I am admitted relatively insensitive to TCA but rarely have a single bottle that’s corked at a restaurant much less 3 of the same wine.
Brian Gilp wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 6:51 am
Like Steve noted, if I’m not sure I ask to let it sit a few minutes to get a better idea as to if it’s flawed or not. How that works seems to depend on if there is a Somm or not. In places with a Somm, if they didn’t serve the wine, the request for time usually results in a very quick visit from the Somm and more often than not, he/she ends up replacing the bottle before I have even made a final verdict.

Things can get way more interesting at places who don’t have a Somm and maybe don’t fully understand wines. I have had a couple of real interesting experiences with places like this where the waiter/waitress didn’t understand what was the problem or what I wanted done. In one place, I had to practically fight to get a replacement of the same wine. She wanted to bring me something different thinking it was the wine I didn’t like and didn’t understand it was flawed. I did eventually get a replacement bottle that was sound and since I had a little of the first in my glass was able to show here how the first wasn’t correct. Another time, I sent back two bottles as corked and the third was still corked. I’m ashamed to admit that I accepted this bottle but I really didn’t think a third rejection wasn’t going to result in a positive outcome.
About average sensitivity. I tracked it for many years and was running between 2%-3% rate of all bottles when I stopped tracking.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#12 Post by Brian Gilp » January 14th, 2019, 10:35 am

larry schaffer wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 7:52 am
I think it's important to discuss here what a 'flaw' is in a wine? I know that sounds simple to explain, but is it?

We all have different thresholds for picking up most things, including TCA, brett, VA, and a few other 'questionable' things.

TCA is relatively straightforward, and a restaurant should definitely take then bottle back and replace if there is even the slightest hint of it.

But VA? Brett? Tougher to figure out what 'policy' should be because everyone picks them up differently.

Interested to hear what others have to say, especially those working on premise.

Cheers.
I’ve only rejected bottles at restaurant due to TCA and oxidation. But I did once get a bottle at retail that had the tell-tale band-aid aroma which I wouldn’t hesitate to reject either. Less severe cases are probably a harder call, especially depending on the wine.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#13 Post by Eric Sch » January 14th, 2019, 10:58 am

We ordered a 96 Roagna Crichet Paje at a nice restaurant here in town last weekend. Upon open and initial pour, the band-aid was incredibly strong and only got worse with a few minutes in the glass. The somm took a glass and agreed the wine was not correct. The wine was taken back and we had the standard 96 Paje instead.

Kudos to the somm, but we also were very clearly wine geeks and had already consumed a 71 Christoffel Jr. off the list at their sister space next door prior to our seating, and had purchased some bubbly off the restaurant list as well.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#14 Post by z_hart » January 14th, 2019, 11:00 am

[Is the question about etiquette or about how to make the determination in the first place?]
Yes and yes. Curious how other's approach it and what everyone's threshold is for determination.

The only two questionable bottles I've had, at a restaurant, where a somm intervened:
One bottle of '85 Trontanoy that I asked the somm to taste with me after I thought it might have been bad upon initial tasting. Somm tasted and said it was sound. After warming up a bit and opening up, it was in fact sound.
Another time I had a somm pull the bottle back based upon the smell, right as I was tasting. Based on my initial taste, I likely would not have sent the bottle back (but of course I told everyone else in the group we were dining with that I knew the bottle was bad:).
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#15 Post by larry schaffer » January 14th, 2019, 11:05 am

Eric Sch wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 10:58 am
We ordered a 96 Roagna Crichet Paje at a nice restaurant here in town last weekend. Upon open and initial pour, the band-aid was incredibly strong and only got worse with a few minutes in the glass. The somm took a glass and agreed the wine was not correct. The wine was taken back and we had the standard 96 Paje instead.

Kudos to the somm, but we also were very clearly wine geeks and had already consumed a 71 Christoffel Jr. off the list at their sister space next door prior to our seating, and had purchased some bubbly off the restaurant list as well.
That's interesting that they were willing to take it back IMHO. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the other purchases you had made - and the fact that you were able to note what the 'flaw' was. If another customer had simply said it was 'off' but could not explain why, I'm not sure that they would have taken it back.

As we all know, brett is not always considered a flaw - and that makes it challenging at a setting like a restaurant.

Cheers.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#16 Post by lleichtman » January 14th, 2019, 1:34 pm

I am extremely TCA sensitive and even at cellar temperatures, I can detect TCA. That being said, I've only had two corked bottles from restaurants. Most have come from my own or friend's cellars.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#17 Post by lleichtman » January 14th, 2019, 1:36 pm

I have rejected bottles from restaurants more for VA than anything else. I have only rejected a Brett affected bottle once because it was a wine that should not have had any Brett to begin with.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#18 Post by Steve Slatcher » January 15th, 2019, 3:01 pm

larry schaffer wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 7:52 am
I think it's important to discuss here what a 'flaw' is in a wine? I know that sounds simple to explain, but is it?

We all have different thresholds for picking up most things, including TCA, brett, VA, and a few other 'questionable' things.

TCA is relatively straightforward, and a restaurant should definitely take then bottle back and replace if there is even the slightest hint of it.

But VA? Brett? Tougher to figure out what 'policy' should be because everyone picks them up differently.

Interested to hear what others have to say, especially those working on premise.
I don't work in a restaurant, but here is my policy as a customer...

TCA is straightforward. If I can detect it I send it back, and would not be happy if the request was refused. There have been a couple of times when I was given a bottle-stink explanation - in those cases I waited a while to see if it blew off, and THEN sent it back. There was also one instance when I accepted a wine that I later realised was clearly corked - that went back too.

With other faults, it would depend on how much I disliked the wine as a result of the "fault" - and I would be more likely to discuss the situation, and take advice from the somm. I am BTW currently drinking a wine that is very bretty, and quite enjoying it!

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#19 Post by Greg Harter » January 15th, 2019, 8:56 pm

I've had more problems with oxidized "wine by the glass" (opened too long) than I have bad bottles from the cellar at our local restaurants. Fortunately, most of our restaurants will take back the glass and open a new bottle without questioning.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#20 Post by Jason T » January 16th, 2019, 5:56 am

larry schaffer wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 11:05 am
Eric Sch wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 10:58 am
We ordered a 96 Roagna Crichet Paje at a nice restaurant here in town last weekend. Upon open and initial pour, the band-aid was incredibly strong and only got worse with a few minutes in the glass. The somm took a glass and agreed the wine was not correct. The wine was taken back and we had the standard 96 Paje instead.

Kudos to the somm, but we also were very clearly wine geeks and had already consumed a 71 Christoffel Jr. off the list at their sister space next door prior to our seating, and had purchased some bubbly off the restaurant list as well.
That's interesting that they were willing to take it back IMHO. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the other purchases you had made - and the fact that you were able to note what the 'flaw' was. If another customer had simply said it was 'off' but could not explain why, I'm not sure that they would have taken it back.

As we all know, brett is not always considered a flaw - and that makes it challenging at a setting like a restaurant.

Cheers.
I would expect any restaurant that has a decent wine program and even a modicum if interest in customer service to take that sort of wine back, especially in the case where the customer is clearly educated in wine, and able to point out and discuss the flaw with the sommelier.
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#21 Post by Oliver McCrum » January 16th, 2019, 10:32 am

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 8:12 am
Are you extremely sensitive to TCA?

I am admitted relatively insensitive to TCA but rarely have a single bottle that’s corked at a restaurant much less 3 of the same wine.
Brian Gilp wrote:
January 14th, 2019, 6:51 am
Like Steve noted, if I’m not sure I ask to let it sit a few minutes to get a better idea as to if it’s flawed or not. How that works seems to depend on if there is a Somm or not. In places with a Somm, if they didn’t serve the wine, the request for time usually results in a very quick visit from the Somm and more often than not, he/she ends up replacing the bottle before I have even made a final verdict.

Things can get way more interesting at places who don’t have a Somm and maybe don’t fully understand wines. I have had a couple of real interesting experiences with places like this where the waiter/waitress didn’t understand what was the problem or what I wanted done. In one place, I had to practically fight to get a replacement of the same wine. She wanted to bring me something different thinking it was the wine I didn’t like and didn’t understand it was flawed. I did eventually get a replacement bottle that was sound and since I had a little of the first in my glass was able to show here how the first wasn’t correct. Another time, I sent back two bottles as corked and the third was still corked. I’m ashamed to admit that I accepted this bottle but I really didn’t think a third rejection wasn’t going to result in a positive outcome.
Sometimes wineries use agglomerated corks, and sometimes batches of agglomerated cork are ALL slightly corked.

(The only agglomerated cork that we now accept is Diam.)
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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#22 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 16th, 2019, 2:25 pm

Durpr

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#23 Post by Barry L i p t o n » January 16th, 2019, 2:28 pm

I’m surprised by the low TCA percentages given by people who say they’re sensitive. In my experience only 1/3 to 1/2 of the bottles impacted by the TCA have a wet cardboard smell.

Or often it’s a very flat wine with a clipped finish that you only know is off because you’ve had the bottle a few times before. The very clipped finish is what gives it away to me.

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Re: Determining flawed/bad/corked wine directly from restaurant cellar

#24 Post by etomasi » January 16th, 2019, 10:27 pm

I havent had many problems with returning corked glasses or bottles or wine, except as noted earlier where its a restaurant that doesnt have a somm. Usually its ok, but at one place in Spain, I let others drink it and ordered another bottle. For an $18 euro wine, it wasnt worth the hassle sending back. The folks I were with didnt notice.

The most interesting was a bottle of 2000 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne we got at a Michelin 3 star in France. It was definitely not showing correctly... flat and dull with a chemical note; but all the somms (they had multiple) disagreed and we had a rather lengthy discussion. They agreed to take it back and we got something else. I've had that wine subsequently and it showed much differently, so I don't know if they were trying to save money, or they honestly thought it was correct.
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