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Anne McHale Master of Wine, London, UK

  • Anne McHale

Why do I get given the wine to taste in a restaurant?

If you eat out regularly in restaurants, you’ll know that when you order a bottle of wine the waiter or sommelier asks ‘who would like to taste the wine?’ and then pours a small sample for checking before they serve the other guests.


Why does this happen? Sadly it’s not to check whether or not you like it! It’s actually so that you can verify whether or not the wine has a fault of some kind (more on wine faults from me in future updates).


You may, quite reasonably, ask the question ‘but why would I be served a faulty wine in the first place?’. Fair question, and one addressed in one of my all-time favourite hilarious clips by UK comedian Michael McIntyre, which you can watch below:



In all seriousness, this is a discussion which is also going on amongst those of us in the wine business, for example as written about recently by excellent wine writer Robert Joseph here.


So why should the customer be given the wine to taste, and not have it pre-checked for faults by the waiter or sommelier? Historically, many diners would have been wine connoisseurs, familiar with drinking high-end fine wines, and would have been more likely than the server to be able to judge the correctness of the wine. For some reason the ritual has stuck. This may of course change at some point; until it does, though, don’t be intimidated – stick with me and I’ll be sharing with you exactly how you go about performing this strange ritual so that your guests gaze at you in awe!