Behind the Bar: A dilemma of face saving

2012-11-29 av Iain Hay.

And there it came.

“Another bottle!”

I had been overhearing snippets of conversation during the past half hour, as the gentleman on table five recounted his many journeys through wine country, his favourite wine houses, and in theatrical detail, what made just this wine such an amazing experience, as he guided his companions through it with much flowery language. They did not appear to share his boundless enthusiasm, but listened politely in the way you do when your boss wants to talk about his garden and how wonderful the petunias are this year.

Removing the spent bottle on my way to fetch a new one, I deposited the last dregs, sediment and all, in a glass in the kitchen (it was, after all, a Poggio al Vento ’99 from Tenuta Col’Dorcia, and I hadn’t tasted this very pleasant Sangiovese for some time). Reflecting on how come my colleague hadn’t decanted, I raised the glass to my nose. The sour smell was unmistakeable. The “sweaty donkey”, as a friend of mine used to describe this grape, had definitely been standing out in the acid rain. I quickly called my colleague responsible for this table, who upon sniffing, smiled somewhat ironically and recounted for me the circumstances behind the opening of this bottle:

It seems that upon being presented the bottle, the host had firmly insisted on being allowed to pull the cork himself (something about the delicate nature of this wine), and rejecting the offer of a decanter (“not necessary if you pour properly”), had dismissed my colleague and taken matters into his own hands.

And there was the dilemma: How would the new, and hopefully perfect bottle be received after the awesome oratory provoked by the first, defective one?! I could hardly point out that this first bottle was all but undrinkable, so I decided to just give them new glasses and hope for the best. I need not have worried.

Returning to the table with the new bottle, I was also relieved of the burden of opening it, as my colleague before me. Stepping back, I watched in sad wonder as, ignoring the fresh glasses (“These ones are already seasoned”), Mein Host proceeded to top up his guest’s sour glasses with what I later ascertained had been a perfectly glorious example of Tuscan winemaking…

Oh well, the customer is always right!

The story I have just recounted took place at another restaurant, long ago; none the less, variations on the theme are regular occurrences in this silly business.

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