Ordering wine in a restaurant apparently not only creates confusion for the diner (which region? varietal? price? does it go with fish?), but also the sommelier. There’s already been some discussion as to which person at the table should receive the wine list, but now a new debate is emerging thanks to Eric Asimov’s recent article in the New York Times. The question now is, do you want the sommelier to taste your wine before you? (Or at all?)
On the pro side we have strong points made by blogger Alder Yarrow and many sommeliers, that this is one of the original purposes of the sommelier, and the reason they traditionally wore tastevins around their necks- to ensure the wine they were serving was a)not poisoned (thankfully not usually a problem these days), and b)not flawed (very much still an issue). They argue that part of a sommelier’s job is to ensure a pleasant experience, one which does not include a mouthful of corked wine.
However, there is also a vocal contingent of mostly wine savvy consumers, who believe they are just as equipped as a sommelier to decide if the wine is in good shape or not, or take offense to the idea that the restaurant is essentially helping themselves to what the customer has paid for, akin to a server taking a bite of their food.
Flawed wine remains a problem, and the reality is not all consumers are educated or confident enough to make that call. Furthermore, different diners have different ideas about what constitutes a great dining experience. Some enjoy the ceremony of the corking, decanting, and tasting of a fine wine on a big night out, others like Alder declare…“I’m SO OVER the theater of wine. A certain amount of ceremony is fine, but for pete’s sake, let’s just drink the stuff.”
I think the safest answer is for the sommelier to simply to ask the customer if he or she would like them to taste the wine. And you- who do you want to taste your wine?