Does Being Young and a Woman Equal Knowing Nothing About Wine? Restaurants Surely Think So.

Categories: My Rant, Shockey

momlogic.com
Not quite.
Working as a restaurant critic requires me to eat out several nights a week, which is an undeniable perk of the job. But several recent dinners have irked me enough to rant about the way I'm treated when it comes to ordering wine. In short, sommeliers and waiters think that just because I'm a young woman, I'm incapable or don't possess enough knowledge to a) navigate a wine list, b) order the wine, and c) taste the wine. Which is downright insulting.

Here's a scenario from a dinner two weeks ago. I was dining at a nice restaurant with a male friend about 15 years my senior. When it came time for us to choose our wine after we ordered, he handed me the list and let me discuss the wine with the sommelier. I then chose a wine varietal that I like and picked a bottle that was within the price range I wanted (inexpensive, yes, but not the cheapest on the list). The sommelier returned saying that he was out of that wine, but there was another similar one that he thought would work well with our dishes. I told him that was fine, and he promptly returned with the bottle. Yet when he returned, he showed the bottle to both my male friend and me and poured us both tastes of the wine.

True, it's possible that this gesture could be perceived as the sommelier's wanting for us both to experience the wine, but I'd be willing to bet a significant amount of money that if my dining companion had picked the wine all on his own, we both wouldn't have gotten an opportunity to sample the wines. And when I'm dining in a group with both men and women, the man will almost always be given the wine to taste even if one of us women has ordered the bottle.


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Judi
Judi

On a similar note, I just started writing about how a woman is treated when going to a bar alone: http://bit.ly/eNGtvc Say, have you noticed that the anonymous icon for these COMMENTS is a guy?! Hmmm :)

Moevino
Moevino

I am an internationally recognized expert in wine collecting and authentication and am a candidate for the Maser of Wine credential. I am in my mid-30's. I frequently attend very high-powered tasting dinners where I am often the only woman. I am always the only woman who is there as a collector or an expert - though I am always asked who's date I am.I am constantly frustrated by the treatment I am shown in service situations until it is discovered that I have a high level of knowledge. (and It's not just the somms and restaurant managers that need to see that before giving credit...)

Fact is that the majority of MW students and a large number of MS students today are women - most of the leading writers & educators are women. In think in 10 years it will be a different scene - but in the immediate future I will still have to scrape and claw for respect that our male counterparts with far less wine acumen may receive.

Virtuallynothing
Virtuallynothing

I totally agree with you! You are spot on...it's similar to vinographers who use photos of women caressing crystal cups of counoise in articles larger than the headlines of those same articles. Who has any idea of what could possibly drive that? I hope your review puts their folly in full view and initiates a new eating place egalitarianism.

Tnwinelover
Tnwinelover

You are probably correct about the bias the sommelier demonstrated but to be sure, you need more information. For example does the somm always give tastes to others when a female orders a wine and no substitution takes place. If the answer is no then your circumstance resulted because there was a change in the wine from your choice to the somm's recommendation. Perhaps the somm does this routinely when it is his/her recomendation that is being tasted. In that case it would entirely appropriate especially if both of you ordered different foods. For example if you ordered a dish that was acidic and your dinner guest ordered a dish that was savory, the same wine that the somm recommended might not go with each choice. Also if you were choosing one wine to go with both appetizer/salad dishes and entrees, that wine might not pair well with each and one guest might want to order a by-the-glass choice to complement let's say the salad and then have wine from the chosen bottle with the entree. In the best case, all of this behavior on the somm's part could be excellent service if it was done with the intent of providing you the guests with the opportunity to experience new tastes and comparisons of food and wine. In the worst case it could be a chauvinistic bias, but most somms know that women account for 80% of wine purchases in retail stores and also they are more likely to be regular wine drinkers in restaurants then men so I guess I would caution you to investigate further before making an assumption. Next time, just ask the somm, " I'm curious that you gave a deciding taste to [my dinner partner] even though I ordered the wine..." You will be able to tell from his/her response wheter that action was from bias or concern for good service.

Jacques
Jacques

so your complaint is the he gave both diners, female and male, a sample of the wine he suggested after the one you ordered was unavailable. alrighty then

BlakelyJoyce
BlakelyJoyce

This is a reasonable complaint. As a waitress working at a restaurant without a sommelier, I was trained to always offer the taste to the diner who ordered the wine, and I know that is the standard. Breaching this seems to suggest that the sommelier thought the wine could only be approved if BOTH of them agreed to it, which is something that should be left up to the patron who ordered it to decide (if they offered a part of their test to their fellow diner or indicated to me to let the other try as well).

J Mac
J Mac

I had a more extreme version of the opposite experience. For the record, I am a red blooded male. I ordered the bottle of wine and when it was brought out, a sample was poured only for my girlfriend. Should I accuse the restaurant of misandry? (Yeah, I had to look that word up)

diner
diner

I'd like to join this rant, but I haven't experienced this in the last five years. When I've been with a group, the server or sommelier has asked who would like to taste the wine. My boyfriend and I generally take turns ordering (we're both equally clueless, and if anyone could recommend a good basic class in wine appreciation in NYC, we'd like to take it) the experience has always been for us both to be offered tastes. Maybe it's just the places we order wine at? We don't go to old stuffy places and many of the places have had female sommeliers (i'm thinking of Batali establishments in particular).

The 90s? Yeah, this shit was still happening. But I honestly think this has been better.

Steveheimoff
Steveheimoff

I think that somm was very rude. I would write a note to the restaurant owner and point it out.

Wren
Wren

I totally agree with you. I've had the same problem in most restaurants. I just don't understand why they can't get rid of these old fashioned rules and just go with the cue from the diners. Why not just give everyone at the table a tasting whether a man or a woman asks and orders the wine? Or just give the tasting to the person who orders?

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