The Alchemist

23 Sep

For a moment I thought Table 25, Seat One, might have known a bit about wine.  He ordered a bottle of Mazuelo from Rioja that I usually recommend, and sell quite a bit of, the . It’s cheap and delicious. 

However, upon pouring a taste, he gave himself away immediately as someone that had picked the bottle for its price, and not its region or varietal: first, he held the damn glass by the bowl, not the stem; and second, his whimpy attempt to airate the wine in his glass, was novice, if not pathetic.  Watching him swirl his wine was  uncomfortable. It was that same feeling you get when you watch  a civilian throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium — insecure, self-aware, and just plain embarrasing–. 

“Oh. Oh, this is definitely corked. Try it!” he demanded.

Now, I was not gonna be an accessory in his attempt to impress his friends.  I knew the wine, and how it should taste.  I could smell the damn thing coming off his glass. Immediately I poured myself a taste, and dared to contradict him.

-“Sir, I will give my manager a taste of this, but I’m honestly not  getting any cork here.  Now, if you don’t like the wine… that’s a different issue, and I can perhaps get you another bottle?”

-“No, no, no. I like this wine. But its definitely corked.”

-Okay, let’s try another bottle. This time I’ll decant it for you… You know, let it open up a little. It’s probably just tight.”

He was a nice guy, but I was going to beat his game. You see, I already had a plan brewing, and knew Seat 1 would find “decanting” alluring. I decanted the wine in the back station, and gave my manager a taste. My manager confirmed the bottle was uncompromised.  And so I decided to do a little psychology test; send the same bottle back to the guest, with a little blind swap, and see what happens.

I was already pouring bottle upon bottle of the Mazuelo at another table, a seventeen-top, at table 11;  I had some room to dance with bottles, without losing product, or cheating either table.  I was going to pull a blind swap. 

I brought one of Table 11’s new bottles over to table 25, Seat 1, in order for him to taste it. 

-“So much better thank you,” he said.

-“I’m glad sir. I’ll decant that for you.” 

 -“Thank you.”

 I returned to the service station and got the first decanted bottle, which was “corked.”  I picked up a new glass, and brought the decanted wine with me to table 25.  Seat 1 had already finished his little taste and so I replaced his glass with a new one.

-“Should I give it a few minutes before pouring?,” I asked.

-“Absolutely, thanks,” said Seat 1.

And so the moment their appetizers came out, I returned to the table and poured Seat 1  a taste of his decanted, “corked” bottle.

-“Please just try that for me again, after it’s been out a bit,” I said.

-“Now, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s how a rioja should taste,” he confirmed.

Waiters are magicians, alchemists of food and drink; or, atleast that’s how it appears to the guest.  In reality it takes a little know-how, a lot of running around, and pulling a few favors, to turn a pinot noir into a pinot gris, but it can be done, I assure you, it can.



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