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There was a link on yesterday or the day before someone who had a horrible wine experience at Babbo, a Batali joint, and ended up writing a letter to the big guy.

They were with their son for his B-Day and had a nice meal but the whole wine thing was apparently a total disaster.

From the eGullet Forum:

“We had a so so waiter..and a really poor wine expert…he was unpleasant and did not seem to be familiar with the wines (to our astonishment)…the wine he brought was not to our liking but since it was opened we kept it and said nothing…what is one supposed to do?? I wrote a letter to Mr Bitali last week…I wonder if he will get it and if he will answer it…any opinions?? Thanks….”

And oh were there some opinions.

This is an interesting sitch and another wine-culture-issue that needs to be touched upon. I am no expert but I do have a wine bar in this amazing, wonderful city and have some experience in this department.

Check this out. There are a couple of things going on here:

“We had a so so waiter..and a really poor wine expert…he was unpleasant and did not seem to be familiar with the wines…”

Is this person naturally difficult? If they took the time to write a letter then there is a good chance they could be. But there is also a chance that the server and sommelier were condescending which would cause anyone to become defensive and feel small.  If there is a person on the floor helping with the wine selection of guests-whether you want to call him or her a sommelier or not- at Babbo who truly does not know the wine list then somebody in the upper management made a big mistake and will eventually suffer for it. Anything is possible but it is kind of hard to believe that Batali and Bastianich would allow such a thing. This comes back to the question of is this person naturally difficult.

But here is the clincher:

“…the wine he brought was not to our liking but since it was opened we kept it and said nothing…what is one supposed to do??”

What is one suppose to do? What is one suppose to do? This is New York City. We pay high rents and work very hard to make it happen here. When you go out to eat you are pretty much rewarding yourself for all the hard work you do because you feel you need it and deserve it. Wine can add some serious bucks to your bill and can be confusing to understand. That is why there are “experts” there to help.

If you do not like the bottle because it is not at all what the sommelier had described…say something. This is your money. If you don’t speak up then you are just purchasing something you don’t like.

It’s like you spent a good amount of money on some new tech device based on what the sales person described to you. You take it home and it turns out that it is not as ergonomically sound as you were led to believe. It has a warranty and a return policy but you feel bad and don’t want to rock the boat by returning it. Hell no. You would walk right back into that store and demand you money back and find a different device. Either that or it sits in your apartment wasting space. Maybe it’s not totally like this but you get the idea.

With wine it is that $50 or $60 dollar charge on your credit card statement that is just going to remind you of the experience or the cash you don’t have because of that wine was, “was not to [your] liking…” but you didn’t say anything and sat and sipped the nastiness.

You have the right to speak up. Say, this is not at all what we discussed. I said deep fruit and you gave me medium pepper. If it is truly a mistake on the part of the server or wine “expert” then all is fine and you are justified.

They might bitch about you at the end of the night as you are crawling into bed but who cares. Let them bitch. You got the bottle you wanted by calling out them out on it and if they were genuinely at fault then you ended up having a wonderful wine with your meal. Let ’em mumble and grumble.

Now, if the wine director brought you exactly what you asked for as well as helped you with other ideas on the list, the service was pleasant and you don’t like what you and the wine “expert” have decided on together…you just gotta give.

Because if you have had a convo about it and they are good at what they do then even if the wine is slightly different than what you had expected it should be close enough to enjoy thoroughly (unless the bottle has been subjected to cork taint or has a bit of bottle sickness or is oxidized of course). Otherwise you are just being difficult.

So if the wine “expert” is smarmy and the server is neglectful and “so so” speak up and make yourself heard. Wine should be enjoyed. They are either upset with their own lives or have just become to comfortable in an establishment where people are falling over each other to get in the door.



2 responses to this post.

  1. doesn’t sound like a difficult person to me, spending serious money and getting service with an attitude (is that part gratis?) is enough to set off even the nicest of people.

    and there’s just something about a server with a tiny bit of wine knowledge…i can imagine that the waiter made assumptions about this patron and condescendingly steered them toward something they didn’t want. (if someone wants a big oaky fruit bomb, despite my personal feelings, i would never open a Chinon, for example.)

    who knows what really happened…keep us posted!


    • Posted by evwgnyc on March 1, 2009 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks for reading! I agree. There is something about a place that is soo desired that make the staff so snobby. Even in the smallest of places. Mud for instance in my hood in the East Village I live right around the corner but will go in there to be subjected to the uppity so-you-want-to-come-into-the clubhouse attitude. I just go to Port Rico one block down and get my amazing beans from nice people and do it myself.

      I would blame the staff before the customer initially because I have a restaurant and have hired, seen and fired the cry-me-a-river type. But you never know in this town.

      Thanks again. I love when the dialogue flows.



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