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Here's how to flag a faulty bottle—and what to expect from the restaurant when you do.

Laura Seal / FoodandWine.com
March 31, 2017

This story originally appeared on FoodandWine.com.

What kind of restaurant diner are you? Would you complain if you had a problem with the service? Or would you smile politely while clenching your fist under the table—in a non-confrontational manner? Sommelier Emily O’Hare gives advice on how to flag up a faulty wine, and what to expect from the restaurant when you do.

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How to complain about your wine

As former head sommelier and wine buyer at London’s River Café, wine writer Emily O’Hare has been on both sides of the table when it comes to dealing with a faulty bottle of wine in the restaurant.

Here are her four stages of making a complaint:

1. If you think the wine may be faulty— ask the wine to be checked by a sommelier to get a second opinion.

Remember: the customer is offered the first taste of the bottle, and it’s solely up to them to decide if it warrants complaint, or at least a second opinion. Finding fault with a wine can be as technical as detecting microbial taint, or as instinctive as knowing when the milk’s off — as the paying customer you have the right to challenge its condition.

2. The sommelier might say: ‘Let me decant this for you’, as some wines do have a bit of a stink when first opened. Agree for them to go ahead and see what happens; it is only fair to give the wine a moment to breathe.

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3. You might still feel unhappy about the wine after it’s spent some time in the decanter. If so, then you should ask the sommelier to take another look.

4. If the sommelier is a good one: they will offer to open another bottle — they will do this if they agree with you and it’s clear you know what you’re talking about. If they think you’re less experienced, they’ll encourage you to take another look at the list and order a different wine.

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Final golden rule

Keep in mind that you’re not criticising the restaurant, unless poor storage was involved. The wine could have gone awry at many points on its journey from the vine to the table, and it’s a matter of course that the occasional bottle should need be returned and replaced with another.

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