If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll be familiar with the term ‘mini measures.’ It’s a phrase I’ve coined for trying different wines without having to think about it too much. The idea is simple, instead of ordering a bottle you order small glasses of different wines throughout an evening thereby trying something new whilst helping to avoid a fuzzy head the next day (that last part is entirely in your own hands of course!)
I’ve been enjoying practising what I preach for months now and it’s been going pretty well. But lately I’ve noticed this simple try-it-and-see practice isn’t as satisfying as it should be as I’ve frequently been walking away from the bar unconvinced that what’s in my glass is actually what I asked for. It’s like standing at the checkout at the supermarket, you know the scenario; “Would you like a bag madam?” “Yes/No” (delete as appropriate) only to find that the cashier has bone-idley decided to give you one anyway. (Dear cashier, if you offer me a choice please allow me to choose.)
Anyway while I’ve been out and about I’ve noticed a similar thing happening in bars. If you replace the plastic bag above with a glass of wine you may start to picture a scene you’re familiar with too. The biggest culprits have been pubs which, as you can imagine, is pretty bad news for me as this is where you’ll most often find me sampling my way through a wine list. Picture the scene, Miss Bouquet walks into a bar…..
Me: “One glass of Jordan Chardonnay please”
Barperson: *glance at the menu and clock finger position*
Barperson: “Sorry, which one?”
Me: “Jor-dan Char-donn-ay, the one from South Africa, just a small glass please” (I should give the guy a break, it’s noisy in here)
Me: *offer the wine list back to the Barperson with my finger still attached to the menu, just to be sure*
Then off they go, bending down into the fridge, back turned (it’s a top secret operation don’t you know), bottle selected, then comes a glass, followed by one of those revolting silver measuring cups, back still turned. Et voila a small glass of white wine is placed on the bar.
Barperson: “Anything else?”
Me: Internal monologue *Please could I see the bottle?* actual words muttered “erh yes, a pint of Fosters please” (Mr Bouquet likes a Fosters you see)
And the blind tasting begins.
Now it’s not that I don’t trust bar staff, not at all, they’re not trying to rip me off, or trick me for that matter. It’s just that as I’m greeted with a look of confusion when I place my wine order so my confidence in what I’ll be served disintegrates. Fast. The biggest culprit to date has to be Grafton House followed by The Alexandra and The Duck, all in Clapham (South London). At Grafton House I’ll be lucky if they speak English well enough to realise I’m asking for wine and then if they take less than 10 minutes to get a glass in front of me then I feel they’ve done well. Pat on the back. The chance of it being what I asked for = zero. In The Alexander and The Duck I’ve asked for the same wine twice on the same night and been served something different each time. Fact. Remember, I’m the customer so I’m always right.
I realise this is a pretty small problem in the grand scheme of things but as the wine trade continues to recognise it’s inability to engage with consumers, it’s little wonder people struggle to connect with wine if they’re served a chardonnay when they’ve asked for a sauvignon blanc. Take beer as a comparison, if you want to order a glass of beer it’s relatively simple. All the brands available by the glass are lined up on the bar for everyone to see, what could possibly go wrong? Not so with wine alas, see secret wine pouring scenario above.
So, in a bid to restore my confidence and that of other pub-loving-wine-quaffers (try saying that after a few mini measures!) I wanted to propose a new etiquette for serving wine by the glass with the hope that if people got behind it then it stood a chance of being adopted. Picture the scene, Miss Bouquet walks into a bar…..
Me: “One glass of Jordan Chardonnay please”
Barperson: “Small or large”
Me: “Small please”
Barperson: *Locates wine from fridge, brings to the bar with a glass, flashes the bottle and label at me for confirmation whilst unscrewing the cap*( it’s 2010, and this is a pub, so it’s a screw cap not a cork)
Me: *smile in acknowledgement and anticipation *
Barperson: *pours wine* “Anything else?”
Me: “And a pint of Fosters please”
PS: of course the situation could be eradicated altogether if pubs and bars reduced the length of their wine lists so that bar staff stood a chance of remembering what they stocked – are you listening Grafton House??…. But that wouldn’t please the ego of the wine buyer, so that’s the end of that idea.
PPS: you can read ‘The trouble with wines by the glass episode I’ here.
PPS: Bring on the Bank holiday weekend in Milan!!
Thursday 27th May 2010