Wine Experiences While Traveling

There are great wine experiences to be enjoyed when traveling. You might have found your favorite Chianti from a carafe in Florence. Perhaps an unforgettable dry rose in a little alleyway cafe in Provence came your way. Or a brilliant Chardonnay from a winery you just happened to stop by in Santa Barbara became your new favorite.

But along with the fabulous wine experience in our travels, there are many bad ones.

One of the worst offenses is when I am traveling and I order a bottle or glass of wine and find it to be faulty. But, oh no, the server is sure that the wine is fine. I could not possibly know anything about these regional wines. The server probably assumes that most people, in fact, the largest majority, do not know much about the wine they are being served. When this happens, they look at you as if it would be laughable that you would even suggest that anything they serve could be “faulty.” But, yes, indeed, there are many corked bottles that have been served to unknowing travelers. I also detest the “cooked” or “maderized” bottles of wine, because when you try to send that one back, most of the people serving it cannot tell the difference.

Kermit Lynch recounts a story where he ordered a bottle of wine and it was faulty. The server came back to him and said it was funky because it was “naturally” made. He rebutted that even a “natural wine must still be correct.”

But we haggle and choose a different wine.

Another irksome experience is when a restaurant or server tries to pass off one wine for another! They bring a wine that is similar, but not what you ordered. It may not be on purpose, and servers are sometimes unaware of it themselves until it’s brought to their attention. But there are cases when maybe the vineyard might be different or the vintage is a lesser one, or it might be a different cuvee or label. Obviously, this makes a huge difference in the wine.

But buyer beware: Once the bottle is open, you will be expected to pay for it, so make sure to confirm that bottle is exactly the one you want.

I also love it (I am being sarcastic) when the sommelier or server is snobby! I have written a whole column on this subject alone, but it still comes up. Sometimes they try to convince me that I do not want what I just ordered. Maybe it is the way they look slightly disappointed in the price of the bottle. I once had to order the same bottle of wine from two people and finally, after 20 minutes, the wine showed up at the table along with a third person.

And this was in Las Vegas. I know I am not a high roller, but every guest deserves good wine service.

Nonetheless, wine travel can be one of the most fun things we can do in life. Visiting sites around the globe and intertwining the travel with wine always is exciting to me – the discovery and the romance are part of what make life so rich. So may you have only the best experiences on your travels.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.
Twitter: @Pinotpusher