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Thatís not chardonnay!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last night, a friend and I attended a soft opening night of a re-opened restaurant, and while the food was great, the wine was less then stellar.† She had the Reisling, which she didnít like, and I had the Chardonnay, which tasted very not-so-good, but I sucked it up anyway (something told me that I shouldíve brought my own vino).† But what I discovered [when I made my way to the bar later] was that it wasnít Chardonnay that I was drinking, it was actually a Semillon and Chardonnay mix, which no one in their right mind should try to pass off as Chardonnay.† I actually had to talk with the bar manager and tell him that that wasnít Chardonnay.† He did have a bottle of true Chardonnay by the same producer on display, and actually offered to open that for me, but said that it wasnít chilled.† It didnít matter to me, as I just needed the Chardonnay, not that dry mix that I had been drinking four glasses of previously.

Now that brings me to the age old dilemma of waitstaff and barstaff not knowing the basics of wines, and potentially serving you something which is not what you actually thought that you were ordering.

Is it Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon?† Whatís the difference between Chablis and Chardonnay?† Or Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc?† And does a Dry Chenin Blanc taste the same as a Chenin Blanc.† On your wine/food pairing recommendations, are you talking from personal experience, or are you rehashing something that someone else told you?

As a consumer, you have to become a little bit learned about wine yourself, and canít just trust everyone that is serving you, no matter what type of establishment youíre in, nor the reputation of it.† As they were searching for bottles of Chardonnay, they actually pulled out a bottle of Coonawarra, followed by a large bottle of Yellowtail.† And for those that know, if youíre going to drink that Aussie crap, only drink the Yelowtail Reserve.† Hell, I know one restaurant owner that still serves that crappy Kendall Jackson Vinterís Reserve Chardonnay, when it tastes like total garbage.† Funnier still, there was one chic lounge/restaurant in Philly that was busted by the Liquor Control Board; when they went in, they found a ton of empty bottles of a pricey vodka right next to a nice stash of inexpensive vodka.† As it turns out, they were filling the more expensive bottles with the cheaper stuff and passing it off to the customers, along with the price.

While I wonít get into the issues of outright wine fraud (try reading The Billionaireís Vinegar), there exist many cases of low-level deception, whether intentional or unintentional, and in the end, it falls upon you, the consumer to be able to know the difference between what you actually ordered, and what you actually got served.

A salud!

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