I’ve found myself asking that question many times, and I’m not afraid to do it when I’ve ordered a wine and it’s just lost that loving’ feelin.’
Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines had this info on Facebook a few years ago. I asked permission to reprint here, because he’s raised such great points.
On Facebook, Larry wrote:
tercero wines tenet for the day
When in a tasting room or restaurant, ALWAYS ask how long the bottle that you’re trying has been open.
I’ve visited many a tasting room and had many a ‘by the glass’ wine at a restaurant that just did not ‘taste right’. In most cases at the restaurant, they were pouring a wine that had been open for awhile and had not been protected from oxidation. And oftentimes the same thing happens in tasting rooms.
You do have rights as a taster, you know. You can always ask about opening a new bottle and comparing/contrasting the two glasses to see for yourself the differences that may exist. Some places will not do this for you – in that case, my advice is to return the glass you do not like and order something different.
Likewise in a tasting room. A good place will explain the situation to you. For instance, in my tercero tasting room, I oftentimes pour the same wine on the second day after opening, especially my reds (if I have any left over from the previous day, of course). In this case, the wine, to me, is actually better – the aeration has ‘opened the wine up’ and allowed the aromatics to be more expressive. My wines are usually opened, decanted, and then put back to bottle to pour. At the end of the day, they are capped back up and put in the fridge to rest overnight before being brought back out the next day. In some cases, I have poured wines that have been ‘opened’ for up to 4 or 5 days that are still drinking beautifully . . . . seriously.
It’s just as important to know how long a wine has been open if you like it as if you don’t. If you try a wine that was just opened and you really dig it, you now know that you can usually ‘pop and pour’ at home and you’ll have a similar experience. Or, if the wine has been open for awhile, you may need to decant at home to have the same experience, or lay it down for awhile.
So how many of you have turned back ‘by the glass’ purchases at restaurants because the wine was ‘old’ or oxidized and what did the server do? And how many of you have questioned tasting room staff as to how long a wine has been opened – and if the wine was ‘not right’, asked them to open another?
Curious to hear your responses . . .
To answer Larry’s question of what I do, I wrote the following back to him.
By the way, whenever I’ve asked the question, I have always just had the glass taken away and a new one brought to me that was drastically different, with a new bottle having been opened.
On the other hand, when the wine is corked, I take that as a teaching tool. I know that my server is not a sommelier, so I politely (in a friendly way) say, “This wine is corked.” I always have seen their eyes glaze over, because now I’m a wine snob, but I continue. “I’m a wine educator and I’d like to have you learn about this one. Just sniff this wine, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about… and think a damp, New England basement.”
I always see their light bulbs go on. They learn and I get a wine I can enjoy.