Would you complain about the vintage?

I came across a thread on boards.ie a few days ago started by a chap who feels that he’s been swindled every time he receives a wine in a restaurant that is of a different vintage to that advertised on the wine list. You can see it here and decide for yourself whether you think he’s got a point or if he’s just being ultra fussy. Perhaps he’s being something in between.

My advice to the restaurants would be to conveniently omit the vintage from the wine list. I suspect vintage changes go unnoticed when new stock arrives because it’s simply not seen as a priority and the staff don’t realise some people actually do care. As well as that it’s just not practical to print off a new set of menus every time a new vintage lands. I know myself, it’s a tricky job keeping on top of new vintages, and that’s a wine merchant speaking.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think the majority of restaurant customers even notice the vintage or take any consideration of it. So if they are the type who do care, they can simply ask the waiter/ess to find out what current vintage is available in whatever wine they’re interested in. If they are only interested in vintage when choosing the wine then they probably need to get a life, but it shouldn’t be a problem for a member of staff to check out even four or five wines that are in stock and note the vintages for the customer.

The other question this thread raises is how well equipped restaurant staff in Ireland are to deal with questions from customers, not necessarily on vintages, but on how the wine should taste and what it might pair well with. I never hold a grudge against a waiter/ess who doesn’t know anything about the wine they are selling, but maybe I take that for granted in an Irish restaurant – that they won’t know anything about the wine list they’ve just handed me. I also wouldn’t feel it’s right to complain to the person serving because it’s not their fault that their superiors haven’t arranged basic wine training for them.

With wine becoming a more important part of the dining experience in Ireland I do think it is time restaurants started paying more attention to the added value of the wine list. This doesn’t apply to everyone by the way, as I can think of plenty who do take it seriously. And for the others that have room to improve, I don’t think staff need to know about the supposedly superb vintage Bordeaux had in 2009, but a basic understanding and knowledge of what they are selling wouldn’t do a button of harm as it will only go to improve the customer experience. These days most wine suppliers are happy to provide basic wine training in restaurants, so is there any excuse or are we starting to get too ‘picky’?


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