Have you ever wondered whether you should send back a bottle of wine you've ordered in a restaurant. You didn't like the wine, but didn't want to deal with the hassle. This is always a difficult question, but here are some guidelines. First off, if the wine has off, strange, unpleasant, chemical odors, it may be a defective bottle. The most common defect is cork taint or TCA, 2,4,6 trichloroanisole - sounds like a Bronx cheer. If there is TCA in your wine, it is "corked," even if the cork doesn't smell bad. It tastes and smells like wet cardboard, sweat socks or running shoes. People vary in their sensitivity to it, but if you detect such an unpleasant odor in your wine you should definitely send it back!The problem is a lot of restaurant staff don't know a "corked" wine from an uncorked wine, so you may have to insist. A sommelier should know the difference and graciously offer you a choice of another bottle of the same wine or another choice from the list. Of course, there should be no charge for the corked wine and you will not want to drink it if it is so bad. Obviously, if the wine has a "screwcap," it isn't corked, but that doesn't mean it isn't defective. The most common non- TCA defects are caused by wine that's been left in an open bottle too long, or a wine that has been subjected to heat. Wine that is poured by the glass, may sit in the bottle for several days. After a while it will oxidize and start to taste more like prunes or raisins. Send it back! Wine that has been exposed to heat will taste "cooked" or old. Also, if it is an inexpensive white wine make sure is only two years old. A wine that has been sitting around for several years will taste old when it should be fresh. Remember with inexpensive whites to treat the vintage date as a "Sell Date" - two years old or less. If it doesn't taste fresh send it back, unless, of course, it is a well aged bottle of fine wine. That's the easy part.
What if you simply don't like the wine? It's not what you expected or hoped for. You don't like the style. It doesn't go well with your food. If your wait person or sommelier recommended it, discuss this with them. They are not obligated to take back, but they may or they may offer you a different wine. If the wine is used as a"glass pour" in the restaurant, it may be easy for them to sell the rest of your bottle by the glass or the staff may drink it after hours. In fact, if it is available as a glass pour ask the staff person to pour you a little sample and if you don't like it you can sample something else. If you chose the wine yourself, then you may have to live with it. Still, it doesn't hurt to discuss the situation with the staff person. You never know how they will respond. If you treat it as a friendly discussion between equals, you will get better results than if you try to be commanding, but there's no reason why you shouldn't send it back!