Restaurant wines

What a difference between two people having a meal out in Paris, compared to London! Paris wins hands down for me as they know how to cater for couples and single people.

In France it is quite common to see a single person in a restaurant. But I want to talk about a problem that couples have in British restaurants.

Over here, it is assumed that couples have no taste and will therefore have the same wine with their first course as with their main course. Ergo, they only offer whole bottles of wine. Occasionally you can find a restaurant who will have half bottles but these are always the cheapest wines. Why do they assume that a couple eating together are poor or with no taste?

In France it is assumed that couples will have taste and will want the proper wine with the meal. So when the wine list is presented, often the house wine will be available by the bottle, half bottle carafe and glass. But many of the better wines on the wine list will also be available by the bottle and half bottle and even, in many cases, by the glass.

Last March I took my wife to Paris for a three-night weekend to celebrate her 65th Birthday. On the day we ate at “Le Train Bleu” – a well known Parisian restaurant, and we had half a bottle of Champagne – a good one – followed by half a bottle of excellent Burgundy with our main course. Something I have never been able to do in a British restaurant.

Also, in nearly all the little boutique bistro style restaurants which abound on nearly every street corner, all the wines are available by the bottle, carafe, half carafe, large glass and small glass. This is an excellent way to ensure that patrons have just the amount they desire without having to drink more than they need at the time.

I looked in Waitrose for half bottles for our Christmas meal. We have four courses. A smoked salmon salad with quails eggs, roast pheasant, asparagus, beans, new potatoes and all the trimmings, a roulard for our sweet, followed by a cheese board.

We don’t drink a lot, I restrict myself to three units a week, so I wanted half a bottle of good Sauvignon Blanc, half a bottle of a good burgundy style red wine, half bottle of desert wine and half a bottle of vintage, or late vintage, port. Once again, they had cheap wines but nothing that I would accept for my dinner table. They had a reasonable dessert wine – but only because most dessert wine comes in half bottles! But no half bottle of Port. If we opened four bottles for the one meal, by the time we got to the end of the bottles the wine would be off. At least with half bottles, we could get through them finally before they get “oxidised”.

Does this mean that Waitrose is going to lower themselves to Tesco’s level? Surely they have directors with a little more intelligence than a school leaver from a council estate? Or is this the background they seek out when promoting staff to the higher echelons?

It isn’t rocket science to work out that, with an incredibly fast aging society, there will far more ”well off” couples who want to have the right wine with their meals.



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