Which diner habits get under a sommelier's skin in the restaurant?
Worst customer habits in restaurants – from the sommeliers
Good sommeliers will always listen to diners and try to advise accordingly, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Decanter magazine discovered some of the main pet peeves of sommeliers in the series Confessions of a Sommelier. We’ve raided our archive to bring you some of the most common complaints.
People playing it too safe
‘My worst customer habit is people who are reluctant to try new or different wines,’ said Mathieu Ouvrard, speaking to Decanter when the head sommelier at Gleneagles Hotel. ‘It’s frustrating, as it doesn’t give the sommelier a chance to enhance their dining experience.’
‘People who won’t try new things,’ said Stefano Petta, who was working at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern in Switzerland.
Christian Thorsholt Jacobsen, speaking when head sommelier at MASH in London, said, ‘Guests who slavishly follow trends. There are more great wines other than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Argentinian Malbec!’ He is now partner and sommelier at Restaurant Anarki in Copenhagen.
‘Deferring to others’ tastes instead of forming their own opinion. That, and only ordering water!’ Richard Bernard, head sommelier at Le Saint-James, Bouliac.
Getting the temperature wrong
It’s easy to think that all white wines need to be very chilled, but that’s not always the case. Fuller bodied whites benefit from just a slight chill.
‘My worst customer habit is when a guest asks for ice cubes to chill an expensive bottle of white Burgundy,’ said Maria Wallèn, head sommelier at London’s Coya.
Michael Deschamps, wine director at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, said the same. ‘It is such a shame when someone requests ice-cold Chardonnay. At this temperature it is impossible to taste and appreciate the style of the grape, soil and all the efforts of the winemaker.’
‘When guests ask me to suggest a great bottle of white, and then ask for me for some ice cubes to put in it,’ said Wayve Kolevsohn, while sommelier at The Test Kitchen. She is now head sommelier at Cheval Blanc in the Maldives.
And it’s not just the white wines. ‘When guests want Champagne colder than we usually serve it. It should be between 12°C or 13°C,’ said Stéphane Morand, sommelier at Le Cercle à Bourges.
See also: What temperature to serve white wine
Forgetting their manners
‘Using the sommelier as a springboard to show off in front of your guests, knowing full well that we can’t really be rude and walk away,’ Arvid Rosengren, speaking to Decanter when wine director at Copenhagen Concepts restaurant group. Rosengren was named best sommelier in the world in 2016 and is wine director at Charlie Bird in New York.
‘One evening a guest arrived at the restaurant with their own glassware and asked me to wash it before and after use!’ Emanuel Pesqueira, speaking when head sommelier at The Milestone Hotel & Apartments. He is now food and beverage manager at Oxford and Cambridge Club.
These answers were part of Confessions of a Sommelier in Decanter magazine, between 2013 and 2015.
More on sommeliers:
Some of the names to know...
Sixty six percent of those surveyed did not know what a sommelier does, although this was more of a problem…
The experts' guide on how to speak sommelier...
Could you challenge the world's best sommelier?
Read our sommelier’s guide to making a complaint…
What were the most bizarre...?