Customers biggest wine mistakes according to sommeliers

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06/10/2022 In the article below, Sommeliers of London shares what they think is the biggest wine faux pas customers make when ordering and drinking wine.

From holding the wine glass by the bowl to swirling it too much or not letting it breathe, customers and even some sommeliers tend to make these wine mistakes. Here are some common customers’ wine faus pas experiences shared by these top London sommeliers.

Shashi Prakash

Shashi Prakash

Shashi Prakash, Food and Beverage Manager at Fonab Castle Hotel and Spa

The guests often say I dislike Sauvignon Blanc, but I love Sancerre. Sometimes some guests have told me I only like old-world classics, and they can’t drink new-world wine. In one of my previous workplaces, two gents came to the lounge in the afternoon and ordered two club sandwiches. When I asked if they would like to drink something, they ordered Chateau Lafite Rotschild Carruades de Lafite 2016 and 2 Diet Cokes along with it.

Personally, I do not judge when I get some random odd request, as we are there to look after the guests and give them what they asked for, rather than making an option about it; there is nothing right or wrong about wine. At the end of the day, the guests pay for their wine. We should never judge.

Francesco Di Fonzo

Francesco Di Fonzo

Francesco Di Fonzo, Assistant Head Sommelier at Berners Tavern within The London Edition Hotel in central London.

One faux pas that is very common across the world is when people have finished their bottle of wine and turn it upside down in the ice bucket. I would rather they leave the empty bottle beside the ice bucket instead.

Pietro Gabriele Zona

Pietro Gabriele Zona

Pietro Gabriele Zona, Dinner By Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

It happened to me, more than once actually, that someone pointed at the content page and asked me for a glass of Loire Valley for 7 pounds which was the page number on the list for Whites of Loire Valley by the bottle. Or some other guest once in a while will place an order that doesn't exist, and you'll be forced to tell them in order to understand what they meant.

Lorenzo Beltrame


Lorenzo Beltrame

Lorenzo Beltrame, Head Sommelier at Santo Mare Restaurant

In my opinion, the biggest faux pas ordering the wine is related to not being able to separate a grape from the region: too many times, I've heard customers telling me they love Chablis and hate Chardonnay.

I do not consider myself a purist about drinking the wine: once the customer has paid, he owns the bottles. It happened to prepare and serve Rossini made with Cristal and Aperol spritz with Ruinart, and I don't consider it embarrassing how it is used as a luxury product.

Aurel Istrate

Aurel Istrate

Aurel Istrate, Cellar Master at The Connaught

In my personal opinion, there are no such things as faux pas when ordering and drinking wine. I had a customer ordering a bottle of 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion in a place where I was working and asked for some ice on the side. At that time, I was busy, so I asked one of my colleagues to bring the ice along with the wine, and he refused because he thought it 'was blasphemy'. I don't judge anyone's decisions or actions on how to drink their paid wine. Later I went to the table with the wine and the ice bucket, and I even asked her permission if could put the ice myself in her glass, which she appreciated.

Lukas Merta

Lukas Merta

Lukas Merta, Assistant Head Sommelier at the Grill in Connaught hotel

I don't think there is a faux pas. Faux pas indicates an act in a social situation that should cause a feeling of shame. I don't see it like this anymore. I believe that what we need to focus on is comforting customers, giving them a feeling of a safe zone, and managing their expectations. A place where they can be themselves. Give them space to enjoy that occasion, be it special or not.  There is, usually (some surprises), a situation that either happens to me personally, or I have encountered before in the working environment with my history.

By studying the brain and science I am interested in now, I have realized how imperfect animals we are (as well as how amazing we are). And funny needless to say. Our brain has its errors and twitches. Sometimes it is like a great computer that gets frozen out of nothing. We all sometimes do something stupid or weird, say something inappropriate, and cannot understand why we said it or did it. Those moments where the brain loses connection. From a man's perspective, giving an example - I can be as cheeky and charismatic as I can be, but once I find the right woman, I am literally unable to speak.


But let me explain the situation that happened recently in the restaurant to explain it well.

Recently I have served regular customers, a family of 6, on the special occasion of the son's birthday. Lady was swirling the wine in the glass during the quality check and accidentally put too much pressure and spilled a bit of wine on her white top. Salt was on the table, so I brought sparkling water and fresh (acidic) wine. During giving her instruction, I told her stories when it happened to me, too, with some juicy ones, and I informed her that this is quite common amongst the sommelier, especially when we get very excited. I finish the conversation with my story about how I was 17 (just finishing 16 hours shift) and decided to rewrite all the laws of our physical world and believed that I could push a square-wheeled trolley with five racks full of glasses only by two wheels at the front on 40% steep ramp. In my head, it made all sense. I just needed to generate the right speed and angle, and it's gonna work out. Well, guess what??? It didn't; I smashed around 120 glasses on the spot. That was my glitch in the system. I am good at what I am doing, but all things come from experience, and I had to make many mistakes to get where I am. After the story, Lady was fully relaxed, the whole company was laughing, and I managed to reset the mood and uplift it. Mission accomplished.

Vitor Silva


Vitor Silva

Vitor Silva, Head Sommelier at Le Comptoir Robuchon

This is quite a challenging question, but I think ordering wine based on app ratings is a great faux pas for me or insisting on ordering wine solely based on the price tag or a famous name. There are so many great wines and pairings to discover that I always hope to get the opportunity to help more people to experience them.

Lewis Allport

Lewis Allport

Lewis Allport, Sommelier at Dolan Hotel Group

For me, asking service staff to open your wine and place it on the table without allowing them to pour a glass will open up much better in the glass; simply removing the closure won't do much at all. Other than that, I believe people should enjoy their wine however they want; after all, they paid for it. If they want to mix it with coke, then so be it, even if it is not what I would do personally; as long as everyone is having a good time, then great.



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