The topic of today’s post is serious business. It is not one to be taken lightly. The truth of it all may be too much for many to handle. What we are going to talk about today is… how a restaurant should store and serve wine.  To the non-restaurant wine drinker, this may seem foolish. You may believe that dining establishments should know how to store all that they serve, and serve all that they store.  However, keeping the milk in a refrigerated area is a concept we all grew up with, but how to store a Pinot Noir, not so much. My position, nonetheless, is that if you choose to put something on your menu, and charge patrons for it, you better damn well know how to store and serve it.

Why Storing Wine Correctly is so Important

There are many supporting arguments on as to why a wine should be stored a certain way, but the most important of them is that it impacts the temperature of the wine, and the temperature a wine is served at impacts the taste and often the bouquet of the wine. Serving red wine too warm makes the tannins harsh, loud and it quiets the other supporting cast members that were intended to round out those tannins that now just won’t stop because of someone’s poor storing techniques. Serving a white wine too cold can make it taste, in my opinion, like a glass of water. The wine is so cold that the tastes of lemon/lime, grapefruit, granny smith apples, and a bevy of others that white wines have been described with, become stifled. What a waste.

5 Things Restaurants Should Know About Serving and Storing Wine

I by no means am saying that all restaurants are in violation of the wine storing and serving processes. I have eaten at plenty restaurants, big and small that do a fantastic job. These restaurants that get it either have a sommelier on staff or a proprietor who is a lover of wine. In both cases, they’ve taken the time to understand the art of wine and what it means to share it with others, and how to share it with others.

My best advice to restaurants trying to figure out how to improve their wine service is to fork out the cash and higher a sommelier.  With that said, I know that those types of budget changes need to be planned for, so in the meantime, here is my list of the obvious things that restaurants should know to maintain a simple air of “we give a damn about our patrons who drink wine and have chosen our establishment to do so”:

  1. Do not store the wine behind the bar, on a back shelf, which sits below ceiling lights. You will cook the wine and make virtually undrinkable. Further, if you are doing this and I ask you why my Rioja is so warm, do not tell me “red wine is to be served at room temperature”. Just don’t.  What you should say, is “I am sorry Beverly, but I seemed to have stored the wine like someone who does not give a shit.  It is my fault.”.
  2. Do not think that the fancy enclosure that you have in the middle of your restaurant, which stores wine, is all you need to bang the senses into thinking you are doing it right, especially if the said fancy enclosure is not temperature controlled.  The picture on the right is from a restaurant that I went to a few months ago, where they gave me a bottle of Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon at the temperature of warm water. When I asked where they had this bottle stored, the server pointed to this glass enclosure. Hmm… hmm..
  3. If you are going to keep open bottles of wine overnight, and then charge me four times the price of the bottle for one glass, please invest in a Coravin or something of similar quality. Otherwise, I just think you are making fun of me when you give me day old wine that tastes like it is 3 weeks old!
  4. For the love of God, make sure your wine glasses do not smell like an old dishcloth. This one is really simple and I should not have to explain why I don’t want to smell the funk of a locker room every time I put my wine glass to my mouth.
  5. Use empty bottles if you insist on displaying bottles upright in your restaurant. There is a chance that wines standing upright may not keep the cork wet, which then causes the cork to shrink allowing air to get in between the wine and the cork and that is no good.

The unfortunate thing is that I have had wine served at poor temperatures at establishments that call themselves a ‘Wine Bar’, and that is the greatest offense. Stating that you are a wine bar should mean that you know a thing or two about wine, and are not set out to give wine a bad name because every experience someone has at your establishment is tainted due to your wine serving recklessness.

I am passionate about this one as I strongly believe how a restaurant serves wine is a basic fundamental. Restaurants that serve and store wine poorly are simply taking advantage of the consumer who is already dealing with a 300% markup for the wine they are about to drink. If you want to charge them that kind of markup, get it right. Restaurants are just being condescending and careless otherwise. Most importantly, many people form opinions about wine from their experiences. If restaurants continue to serve wine incorrectly they are tainting the experiences of others.

I’ll close by asking patrons to also do their part.  If you feel you’ve been served a glass or bottle of wine and that it was not stored correctly or the glass it was poured in was funkier than James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag‘,  say something. Don’t be afraid of the rolled eyes you’ll be met with. It is our duty to speak up, just as it is the restaurant’s duty to give a crap and get wine service right!

The Fine Wine Reserves guide to storing wine.