When the glass is half empty..

Drinking wine is one of life's great joys, so why are there so many people trying to spoil it?
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The Independent Online

Some months ago, this column ranted against waiters who refill wine glasses too often. I said that the practice sometimes ruins an enjoyable meal, and also asked if any readers had comments to make on the topic. And boy, did you ever! Herewith, an edited selection of responses – with apologies if I've made a mess of anyone's letters. Apologies also to those whose splenetic ravings I've had to leave out. Keep those letters comin'!

Some months ago, this column ranted against waiters who refill wine glasses too often. I said that the practice sometimes ruins an enjoyable meal, and also asked if any readers had comments to make on the topic. And boy, did you ever! Herewith, an edited selection of responses – with apologies if I've made a mess of anyone's letters. Apologies also to those whose splenetic ravings I've had to leave out. Keep those letters comin'! My e-mail: richard.ehrlich@independent.co.uk.

Roger and Lyn Watkins: "Sometimes the waiter appears to be on his way towards another table and then you realise the neck of your wine bottle is tilting towards your half-full glass. Or it's the silent stealth approach from behind a plant. You can say to your waiter that you will pour your own, but others who pass 'assist' the customer. We had an experience at the Haycock in Wansford-in-England, where a decent wine was poured into half a glass of water. All we got by way of apology was, 'Oh dear, never mind.'"

Monica Todd on a dinner at Quo Vadis in London with three companions: "Not long after emptying most of the bottle into the large glasses, our waiter returned to empty the modest remainder into the glasses of the two male members of our group, leaving myself and the other female without. He vanished with the empty bottle so rapidly he had no time to notice the horror on all our faces. This all occurred during the starter."

Richard Moy, proprietor of the Spread Eagle Restaurant in Greenwich, south London: "I am insistent that staff ask customers from the outset whether they wish the waiter to pour their wine. My principal objection, apart from the obvious intimation that they want you to buy more wine, is that the person driving the car, who has said just one glass please, or the aged aunt who rarely even gets through one glass, have a constantly full vessel in front of them. And the host, who has only ordered the 1977 St Emilion because he knew he was going to drink the lion's share of it, is lucky to get a glass and a half."

Caroline Stead: "Much as I like wine with a meal, I cannot drink very much. If waiting staff insist on topping up my glass, it is impossible to keep track of how much I have consumed, and as the realisation that it may have been too much always dawns a little too late, the damage is done if I don't resist attempts to refill my glass. On occasions when neither my partner nor I has been able to drink, or with my mother and sister, who don't drink, I have had the impression in some restaurants that we have been written off as cheapskates."

John Hopper: "In addition to everything you mention, I'm also sorry to see glasses full of wine at the end of a meal, because a waiter has topped up 'the driver', or perhaps someone who suffers migraines with more than one glass. What a waste!"

George Misiewicz: "What I usually try to do is have a waiter-pour for the initial sniff only and then I take over – against resistance, in many instances. Women waiters are easier to convince than the males. I reckon pouring the wine for one's companions is part of the pleasure of taking them to dinner and one can keep them supplied with an even flow of the stuff."

A happy story to end with, from John Coldwell, about the Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Great Milton: "Having decided what we were going to eat, we then discussed the choice of a suitable wine with the sommelier. The selection of a Saumur Champigny 1996 was based on the understanding that we were looking for a wine to see us through the hors d'oeuvres and the main course. Throughout the meal our glasses were never allowed to empty but such was the skill of the waiters that the last of the wine went into my glass just as the cheese board arrived." Now that's what I call wine service.

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