In each issue of NJL, the wine page sports the tag By The Glass. It’s a clever nomenclature carrying multiple meanings in the world of wine, including the ever- popular way to order. I frequently order by the glass and just as often am disappointed. It’s true you tend to pay more for a single glass than you would if you buy the bottle, but it’s not the nickel and dime difference that troubles me as much as the actual wines that end up on the neglected “By The Glass” list. For some reason establishments choose to tout watery Pinot Grigio or house Chardonnay (a.k.a. something oaky from California) for whites and the reds are just as boring. As a wine drinker I find the careless attempts to make a buck insulting. Why bother creating a list at all? I mean, would your cocktail crowd continue to return if they only could be served well drinks? I think not.
Last night my girlfriend and I had an excellent dinner at Café Con Leche in Newtown, PA. It’s a teensy tiny BYOB, and we brought along a Pouilly Fuisse that was divine. Afterwards, we walked to a nearby bar/restaurant for a final glass of wine. This venture turned out to be more like the search for the Holy Grail. The offerings were as expected- Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. We went for the PG and with one sip my friend said, “This is like sugar water.” Not wanting to end on a bad note, we headed to yet another establishment and were offered the same two whites with the addition of Riesling. It sounded so exotic, and she took the bait. I politely requested to taste first and was glad I did. If the last place served sugar water this was straight up simple syrup. In a final attempt to please my palate I asked the server to bring me the driest white wine he had by the glass, to which he actually replied, “No offense but people around here don’t drink wine like that.” No offense buddy, but people don’t want to drink swill either. So get it straight. If you’re offering wine, especially if it’s by the glass, make it a memorable one. If you are so completely sold on Chard and Pinot for your whites, for goodness sake taste them before you put them on your list. You don’t have to be a sommelier to trust that if you want to spit it out then you shouldn’t serve it. Restaurant owners, managers, and bar managers take heed: take as much pride in what comes from your bar as you do in what comes from your kitchen. Believe me, a nice glass of wine goes a long way.