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Overheard at a wine bar...

Guest: "What is Txakolina?"

Server: "It's a Spanish white wine. It just means farm."

Sometimes sommeliers, servers, or bartenders don't know the answer, so they make something up! What have you overheard at restaurants or wine bars that made you do a double take?

  • Recently saw a restaurant with a classic gimlet on the menu with Cointreau....also saw a “boulavarier”

  • How did the guest pronounce Txakolina?  Also, is it pronounced "cha-ko-lee-na"?

  • A few days ago a guest asked for a Fernet Branca. The Somm said "I know we have Fernet but I'm not sure if we have the Blanca, I'll check with the bar". The guest looked at the Somm like he was an idiot. Because he was. That Somm was me! lol 

  • Love the vulnerability, we've all had those moments! I far too recently called Ygrec "Chateau Y"

  • I'm a huge abuser of this.don't get me wrong, I know the Chateau I know wine makers I know their history, but I don't know French.

    If I haven't heard it pronounced correctly, I will most likely butcher it until corrected.

  • Ygrec is just french for the letter Y (in the same way that if you were writing it out for someone, W would be double-you). You pronounce it EE-grek (hard G).

  • I've heard Mourvèdre pronounced 'moo-vee-der' in the US.

    More importantly, if we're going to talk about making things up, what's the deal with people in the US saying sommelier, "som-al-yay"? I've heard this both from regular wine drinkers and people who claim to be said "somalyays".

  • So, you find it shameful that folks mispronounce words from languages that they don’t speak natively?

  • I love this.  It's always fun to see these instances from both sides of the equation.  Some of my personal favorite moments have been from guests that are ordering for the table and telling other guests about the wine they ordered and think they know. Here's one that still stands out.

    A few years ago (at a different restaurant than where I currently work) a gentlemen was informing the clients he was entertaining how Burgundy is the region but Cabernet is the grape, and the French invented it so they do it best.  If you like Napa Cab you'll love it... just going on and on about this Cabernet blend from Burgundy and how in another 100 years maybe we'll make Cabernet as good as they do in Burgundy.  I was already pouring by the time he said this so there wasn't really any going back or offering a different bottle. They quickly switched to Napa Cab for the next round, I didn't really feel like entertaining a "better producer" from Burgundy that would be more full bodied even though they asked.  Some things just aren't worth it.

    On the flip side, same restaurant, a server rushes over with a ticket for a white he "sold" to the table.  This was a white Burgundy that we had run as a special BTG just a few weeks prior, that was now only BTB.  I was so excited he remembered it and used it!  This was the same server who sold the most glasses the weekend I decided to run that BTG special.  So while we're on our way to the cellar of course I have to ask how the conversation went, what did he tell them, etc.  "Well they were looking for something not too dry, not too sweet, so I figured this one's a Riesling blend so it would be perfect."  I thought this one would be a lot harder to talk my way out of but it turns out the guests knew they wanted white Burgundy and just kinda agreed when he told them it was a Riesling blend because they knew they would like it anyway, they trusted the list and the Somm.  But how did he win the sales contest on that wine?  

  • I think it's important to be cognizant that there are always people out there that know more and know less than you and to take everything with the humor appropriate.  If it's an education seminar or class then by all means, correct the pronunciation, grape variety, or style with the humility and subtly that our profession has taught us.  If it's a restaurant or retail setting with a guest, then realize what they mean, what they want, what they are trying to say, and get them the best beverage that meets their needs while allowing them to be the star of the evening.  Knowledge is great when used to enhance a guest experience, not when it's used to make fun or belittle.

    I don't know if this thread is moving that way, but kind of seems that way, and I would just caution against that.  I've drank Egon Muller Scharzhofberger before and had no idea what it was, didn't know that DRC made marc, still thought it was "Y" and not yrgec until months ago when I heard it said outloud when a generous friend poured me some.  And never during these times was I made to feel embarrassed or "wrong", simply a bottle of DRC marc appeared, we talked about scharzhofberger, and had some of the best white Bordeaux I've ever had.  It's a really exciting time in the sommelier community and we all need to be ambassadors and raise the tide so all the ships follow.  

  • Poor guy got his Burgundy and Bordeaux crossed and didn’t realize it until it was too late. I’m sure he went home, looked at his wine shelf full of famous Chateau and kicked himself. Kinda unfortunate. 

  • "chah-kuh-lee-na" is how I've heard a winemaker from Basque country pronounce it.

  • Anyone who corrects pronunciation obsessively should have to pronounce Champagne like Christopher Walken on SNL

  • I like that many of these comments are us sharing our own foibles