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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Atlanta wine service is swill

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Here's a scene from a meal I had this week at a new-ish, high end restaurant in town.

Me: "I'd like to know about a couple of wines."

Waiter: "OK, which wines were you interested in?"

Me: "This German pinot blanc, and this white Burgundy. What can you tell me about them?"

Waiter: "I'm not familiar with either of those wines. Let me go check for you."

The waiter left for around 10 minutes, and when he came back he said "The French wine is going to be a little bit dry, like a chardonnay. And the German wine will be fruity."

I bit my tongue. It's tempting, in these type of situations, to say something like, "You mean like a chardonnay because it IS a chardonnay? Yes, I knew that, what can you tell me about it?"

But really, is it even the waiter's fault? Shouldn't the restaurant be training, and even testing its servers on wine knowledge? Or, just as acceptable to me, if the waiter doesn't know the wine, shouldn't there be someone on hand who can give me more information than a broad description of what wines from that country generally taste like?

Unfortunately, this experience is not uncommon in Atlanta restaurants. And I'm talking expensive restaurants, the kind where you're paying a premium for touches like...wine service! Apart from general lack of knowledge, I've recently had a waiter pour for my husband when I ordered, another waiter bypass the tasting altogether (on the one bottle of the year so far that I've had to send back - a real pain when everyone at the table already had full glasses), many waiters who don't even recognize the name of a wine I'm ordering off of relatively short lists, and many, many waiters who, if they do know anything about wine, assume that I don't and lecture me about how I probably won't like the French chardonnay I've ordered because it isn't buttery. Or something equally insulting.

In fact, wine service is so bad in Atlanta, that for all the meals I eat out, I can remember more vividly the ones where the wine service was decent, because it's so uncommon. Craft. Repast. A former sommelier from Floataway Cafe who I still remember three years later just because she was enthusiastic and recommended something I wouldn't have picked otherwise but loved nonetheless.

What's up Atlanta? Why is this one area of service that so often falls apart? My challenge to you: step it up! I'm thirsty!

(Image courtesy sxc,hu)

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