Sharing Wine in Restaurants

Last night, I had two different experiences in the same restaurant regarding sharing (and not sharing) wine with other patrons. The two circumstances were unrelated to each other.
First experience. While waiting for our table to be set, another customer (also waiting) noticed my wine carrier. He pointed his wine carrier out. I commented that I appreciate the opportunity to bring my own, that I know the owners of this particular place encourage it, etc. Just making small talk. He then showed me the two wines he brought–a 2000 Vieux Donjon and a 2007 Brunello (producer name escapes me). I showed him mine–2013 Montenidoli “Fiore” Vernaccia di San Gimignano and 2010 Passopisciaro Etna Rosso. He then suggested that we swap tastes, which I thought seemed like a good idea. Note that this was HIS suggestion.

When the Fiore was opened, I asked the server to bring two extra glasses. I poured some for him and some for the other table. He came back with a pour of the Brunello, which was corked, and I just set it aside. Fortunately, the other table and our table had a wall between us, and they didn’t know I hadn’t taken any. I didn’t bother relaying a message that the wine was corked. I didn’t need to have that conversation with another table while our table was celebrating a wedding anniversary. Moving on. Later, I did the same with two glasses of the Passopisciaro. The server came back and said the other table thanked me. But he did not have a pour of the Donjon for me. Um, okay. What. Ever. Chances are he may not have even known about the wines I brought, and thought they didn’t ascend to the level of the Donjon. But I would drink those two wines any day of the week.

Second experience. I noticed our server opening a bottle that a different customer had brought–a 1995 Jarvis. The cork broke on him. I quickly pulled out my Monopol ah-so, and offered it to the server. He said he didn’t know how to use it, and asked me if I could help him out. I should point out I dine here frequently, and know this server pretty well. He told the table, “This guy knows what he’s doing.” I was able to carefully extract the one-third piece of cork stuck in the neck of the bottle without getting any cork bits into the wine. He thanked me, and a couple of the diners at the table thanked me. Not the owner of the bottle, however. If someone would have done that for me, I would have offered that person a taste. No such offer was directed my way. At least the owner of the restaurant came over and thanked me for “saving her server’s ass.”

This isn’t a complaint post. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if other people bother to share wine or not. Rather, it’s just one of those things that has me scratching my head. Someone suggests we should trade tastes and doesn’t follow through, and someone else doesn’t even say thank you for extracting the cork from his bottle.

My only question would be was it ignornance or assholishness in those instances. Sadly, the world is full of both.

If we end a night and still have a couple glasses left in one bottle, I often offer it to the restaurant staff or another table as we’re leaving.

… unless it’s super-spectacular and I want to hog the remainder for the next day. [wink.gif]

In the first instance, it may well be that the other guy reached the same conclusion about the corked bottle and no longer had Donjon to share, as it was all he had. It’s a shame, but I wouldn’t have made anything of it.

Once upon a time Montrachet in NYC (before they closed) had corkage free Mondays. There were some crazy wines that people would bring there. One time someone there sent over some 67 Yquem to our table to try. I don’t remember what dessert wines we were having but they must have thought we’d appreciate it or something. It was amazing.

I wouldn’t read too much into those experiences. People can have off days. And sometimes they share the abundance.

Or maybe the first taster is clueless about TCA, but super sensitive to brett, and was embarrassed to send over two glasses of a very bretty Vieux Donjon.

And in the second case, the wine world is full of people with different levels of generosity, just like the world around us. Maybe the person who brought the bottle thought there’s no way he was going to offer anyone outside of his group of friends a taste of a wine he has stashed away for 17 or 18 years since its release, that he paid $75 for in 1998. I bring wine to restaurants all the time, and a good % of the people I go with don’t even think about offering the server a taste, especially if they seem interested in wine. No one ever kicks me under the table to say, “NFW, we don’t have enough of that great wine,”, when I offer a taste of someone else’s wine, they just hadn’t thought about offering any.

Still, the person who brought the bottle should’ve at least thanked you for performing emergency surgery successfully. Interesting stories.

I usually just order off the list as we drink red and white respectively. At a local meat centric restaurant, an older couple, our age, at the next table the server was having trouble extracting an old cork. My ever helpful wife suggested I give them a hand. This must have been a special bottle and I was not about to make a mess of things. They successfully extracted the cork and we all had a very good meal. [cheers.gif]

I always think it is nice to share. When we bring a nice wine to a nice restaurant, we usually give a medium sized glass to the server and/or sommelier. If I was near a table that clearly appreciated wine, I would do the same thing.

I would not say or think terrible things about the people you describe, but I also would not think bad things. At a minimum a sorry, in the first instance, and a thank you, in the second, would have been nice. But life is too short to spend too much time thinking about such people and such (non) actions.

I wouldn’t read too much into those experiences. People can have off days. And sometimes they share the abundance.

Or maybe the first taster is clueless about TCA, but super sensitive to brett, and was embarrassed to send over two glasses of a very bretty Vieux Donjon.

In the first instance, it may well be that the other guy reached the same conclusion about the corked bottle and no longer had Donjon to share, as it was all he had.

All of these things. I wouldn’t spend any more time thinking about it. We take wine out all the time and I always share with the staff - in fact, next month they’re going to be full participants. And if I see other people in a place who seem to like wine, I’m always willing to share with them and possibly make some new friends.

Funny about the Brunello though. The last two corked wines I’ve had have both been Brunello, 1990 and 95 respectively, from different producers.

Agree with others perspectives. The wine being corked likely accelerated the consumption of their other bottle…

You were the victim of poor manners and a lack of class. The only appropriate revenge is to exhibit manners and class yourself. Which you did in spades. Chapeau sir.

Regarding the corked wine… I understand the logic. And I didn’t provide all the detail in the interest of brevity. But the server told me that they all thought it smelled funny, but tasted fine. I don’t think they dumped it. Yet, it was corked. Badly.

Also, I haven’t over-thought this. I mainly found it curious. And an interesting take on human nature. Fun discussion.

Completely agree with your comments. We regularly share wine with the server and chef. Sometimes they comp the corkage, sometimes not, but either way I am fine. I just enjoy the giving part and it helps gets me in the right mood at dinner. Couple ounces maybe.

Brad–My favorite restaurant wine sharing story is this one. Many years ago we were in a local place that encouraged BYOB with only a $2 corkage fee. So we brought several bottles of CdP. A table of older diners left while we were enjoying the wines, and while her husband was fetching the car one of the women stopped by our table to comment on all the open bottles. We asked her if she wanted a taste, and she quickly said yes.

So we poured her a taste and she enjoyed it quite a bit. After a few minutes, her husband came back inside to get her, obviously annoyed that she was hanging out with us rather than waiting out at the curb.

Him: “Where have you been? I was waiting for you outside!!!”

Her: “But I was in here drinking Chateauneuf-du-PAPE!!!”

We all got a good chuckle out of that one; they were probably somewhere in their 70’s…


Sounds like my life. [drinkers.gif]

You had a bad experience; I hope hasn’t soured you for the future. There are great people out there who like to share their wines, and as has been noted earlier, people who don’t.

I have a close friend who I met at a local restaurant over twenty years ago, and we shared our wines, and then got to talking. It was a fun evening, that became the first of many. I will have ask him if he remembers what we drank that night, sadly I can’t.

That Montenidoli ‘Fiore’ is delicious wine.

Wholeheartedly agree, Oliver. It’s is a truly beautiful wine drinking very well. Sadly the distributor/importer bringing it into Minnesota has had a falling out with Montenidoli. I grabbed the last remaining bottles from the retailer not knowing when we’d ever see it in this market again.

I think alot of high-end restaurant wine patrons have an ambient nervosity about them that precludes a proper show of manners to other tables. The most many can manage is behaving well with their own group, and perhaps the waiter/waitress and sommelier. Other diners at other tables are just aliens to them. Blame it on a lack of training on how to order and dine with grace, and maybe the high prices of visiting a great restaurant which encourages a certain greedy mentality.

If it were me, I’d have said “I’d offer you the Donjon but it is flawed”…or something like that. People can be hard to figure out sometimes.

I did that once, I could tell it was corked but it tasted good, so I drank it. My mouth was ruined for the rest of the night. Wine, food, water, a waste of an evening. Never again.