5@5 - Wine editor Talia Baiocchi
October 15th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Being served wine at a restaurant can sometimes seem more like the Tour de Franzia than a relaxing evening out.

The sommelier watches over. You sniff. You swirl. You sip. You gargle. You nod. It's mostly because we’ve seen the ritual played out in movies and by oenophiles at neighboring tables, and it just seems like the appropriate thing to do at the time.

Let's face it: there's a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding wine service, and very few of us know what the heck the formality actually aims to achieve. That's where Talia Baiocchi comes in.

Baiocchi is the editor-in-chief of WineChap.com - a Web site that delivers reviews of more than 150 New York City restaurant wine lists. Now, she’s here to debunk those age-old restaurant wine rituals - no pretense required.

Demystifying Five Restaurant Wine Rituals: Talia Baiocchi

1. The mysterious cork presentation
"What does it all mean?! First things first: there is no need to sniff. The sommelier presents the cork so you can cross check the name of the producer and the vintage on the cork with the label on the wine to identify whether or not the wine is authentic. However, this is really only relevant if you’re ordering big shot vintage wine that could possibly be counterfeit. For the average diner, it’s simply a friendly exercise in pomp and circumstance."

2. To decant or not to decant?
"There are two circumstances that merit a wine to take a dip in the decanter. 1) If it is young and needs some time to aerate in order to really show its bones. 2) It’s an older wine that is possibly throwing a ton of sediment and requires that the wine poured off of it in order to prevent a swampy wine from hitting the table. In this case, it’s all about utility."

3. Taste test time
"This can often be a time characterized by an awkward moment wherein the sommelier pours a taste and may wait a minute or more until someone realizes it is taste test time. He/she is waiting for you. Take the initiative. All you are required to do here is taste the wine to determine whether it is in proper condition (i.e. is not corked or spoiled in any other way). If it smells like a dank basement, mold, or a wet animal, you might be looking at cork taint and should ask the sommelier to taste. If all smells well, you’ve passed."

4. What is the deal with the tastevin?
"The tastevin is an endangered device that was shaped/riveted in such a way that it would allow the sommelier to see through the wine and judge it’s clarity in a dimly lit cellar. However, once Edison gave us the light bulb, the tastevin became relatively useless. The only reason they’re worn today is either to appear proper or to offer a nice tip of the hat to tradition. The only person, in my mind, that looks good in a tastevin is Aldo Sohm. The Le Bernardin mastermind really knows how to rock the cup and chain."

5. Does the glassware really matter?
"Why, yes it does. It’s all about giving wine the proper vessel in which to show off. Pouring, say, good red Burgundy into a water glass is like asking Lady Gaga to perform on a stage with no lights. You’ll still hear her, but the effect is lost. A proper Burgundy glass, even for an entry-level Burg, allows the wine to give you the full show. It’s also O.K. to have your own preferences with glassware. For example, when it’s champagne time, I generally opt out of the flute and go for a standard white wine glass - I think it allows the wine to be a bit more outgoing aromatically."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Think • Wine

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Michele Gomis

    and these comments bear on this post.......how?? does "non sequitur" make any sense here or is THIS a non sequitur...or am i in the twilight zone.....?? where is dave barry when we need him?

    October 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  2. RichardHead

    You missed some damn good stuff the Monday after Sanchez got fired from SI-NN. The best one was from a girl who said"I might be a little naive but are You the real Rick Sanchez that worked at CNN? ILMAO! Surprised that Kat or Sarah let it go on for the time that it did. Well Buddy,got my CLAW and MOOSEHEAD shirt on so I'm gonna go watch the Ranger game. Have a good weekend and I'll yell at ya Mon. or Tuesday.

    October 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  3. RichardHead

    Well that 6ft 8' girl from Baylor is available if Coach Mike needs her! You off Monday?

    October 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  4. RichardHead

    That sucks! My faithful companion J.J. The Wonder Dog and I are chillin' with some JD and coke and awaiting the start of the Game. Whats the spread on the niners-Raiders tomorrow?

    October 16, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Niners are 6.5 points favorites. Horrible. Against the Raiders?

      October 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  5. RichardHead

    Baylor Bears womens Basketball coach. How late ya gotta work? Pairazz left you a message with her predictions on the niners season

    October 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants



      October 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Being dyslectic as a banker is not too good. How long ya gotta work till ? Rangers start at 3:00!

        October 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Dyslexics UNTIE!

        4pm, cst.

        October 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  6. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    @ Truth and RichardHead

    You guys need to work Saturdays so I'm not bored at work on Eatocracy.

    October 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Should I call the Waaahmbulance for you? Yankees suck!

      October 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants


        Go Mets! Oh......that's right.

        October 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Dang-We got a severe ass kicking last nite. Sigh-There is always this afternoon though. Kim Mulkey says Hi!

        October 16, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants


        October 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  7. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    Lady Gaga sucks.

    October 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
    • Truth

      Lady Gaga is a partisaan liberal stooge.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        She's not even cute. Beyond the 10 beer mark.

        October 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
      • RichardHead

        I had 11 beers and did her sister--I think.

        October 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
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