How to choose wine in a res­tau­rant

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Fiona Beck­ett

Those of you who take ad­van­tage of res­tau­rant meal of­fers may be taken aback that the fi­nal bill ends up be­ing twice the amount you bar­gained for. The rea­son, of course, is wine and ser­vice.

Wine, in par­tic­u­lar, is con­tentious. On the face of it, the mark-ups ap­pear huge for what seems es­sen­tially just open­ing and pour­ing a bot­tle, but they re­flect the costs in­volved: in­vest­ment in stock, stor­age space, glasses and staff train­ing all adds up. What I find hard to swal­low, how­ever, is that those mark-ups pre­sum­ably also in­clude ser­vice, and then (with the oc­ca­sional rare ex­cep­tion such as Tate Bri­tain) ser­vice is charged again on the whole bill.

This seems like a bro­ken model, but it’s the main way restau­rants make their money, so I don’t see it chang­ing any time soon, par­tic­u­larly in the cur­rent tough trad­ing cli­mate. That said, an in­creas­ing num­ber, such as M restau­rants in Lon­don, have a re­tail out­let, too, and on qui­eter nights of­fer wine at shop prices; oth­ers of­fer BYO at least one night a week.

With less en­light­ened es­tab­lish­ments, though, it pays to know how to ne­go­ti­ate a list. First, it’s worth dis­pelling a widely held myth that it’s the sec­ond or third wine on the list that’s the least good value. More to the point, it’s the wine you’re most likely to have heard of, so be­ware French clas­sics such as sancerre, chablis, sain­témil­ion and – don’t get me started – cham­pagne, which is of­ten of­fered at the be­gin­ning of a meal as if it were a gift and then turns up on the bill at £14 a glass (plus ser­vice).

A good guid­ing prin­ci­ple is to go for grape va­ri­eties and wine re­gions that you may not have heard of – grapes such as falanghina, zweigelt and bobal, for ex­am­ple, from lesser known ar­eas of Italy, France and Spain. Wines from coun­tries such as Greece, Hun­gary, Ro­ma­nia and Por­tu­gal gen­er­ally rep­re­sent good value, too, while un­fash­ion­able wines such as sherry (yes, still, amaz­ingly) and mus­cadet are also rarely over­priced (though pre­vi­ously out-of-favour beau­jo­lais is creep­ing up).

Fi­nally, you might like to be re­minded that, if a wine is corked or just tastes a bit tired, you should tell your server as soon as you taste it. Some­times it may come from a bot­tle that’s been kept open too long. If it doesn’t seem right to you, don’t be palmed off by an “It’s sup­posed to be like that” re­sponse. That could be true with nat­u­ral wines, but they should have flagged that up when you or­dered it. Be­fore re­frig­er­a­tion, shrubs were a pop­u­lar way to pre­serve fruit, but they also work in cock­tails. The drink is named after a char­ac­ter Bernie San­ders played in the low­bud­get 1999 film My Ex-Girl­friend’s Wed­ding Re­cep­tion.

For the shrub, wash the grapes, cut them in half and put in a very clean tub. Pour over the sugar, seal and leave for two days. Strain the re­sult­ing syrup into a clean bowl, whisk in the vine­gar, then pour into a ster­ilised bot­tle and seal. Shake well, then re­frig­er­ate, check­ing on the shrub and shak­ing now and then.

To make the cock­tail, com­bine the rum and shrub in a tum­bler, top with soda, gar­nish and serve.

The Good Egg Soho, Lon­don W1

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.