Glass – yes, and in fact many restaurants will give you a tiny pour to sample without your even asking. The good news is that (1) I can’t think of a restaurant these days that doesn’t offer wine by the glass, and (2) in general, wine lists are so much better now than they were as recently as 10 years ago.
Bottle almost assuredly not – they would be stuck with an open bottle if you refused after sampling. Best to talk to the sommelier (or if there is none, your server) explaining what type of wine you like and what type you don’t like, and what price range you’re looking for. Of course, if you do order a bottle and after it is opened, you can always* refuse it if the wine is defective (e. g., oxidized, corked, etc.)
- One snotty restaurant in Beaune refused to take back a corked bottle, but that’s unique in my experience.
Thanks Onz! We’ll probably mostly be getting wine by the glass. But, you never know!
Looking forward to your report. Have a great trip.
If you’d ask I reckon most restaurants would give you a taste, provided of course it’s a wine they serve by the glass. Whether it’s ‘acceptable’ that depends on your point of view, and level of shame I guess. I personally would not ask directly for a sample, but a good trick is to just ask a lot of questions and they will most likely pour you a small sample.
As a general rule, if my partner even has 1 glass of wine, I will most likely order a bottle. You’ll have more options to choose from, and usually the pricing is good versus single glasses. If I’m on holiday, and a little bit depending on the venue, if a bottle is unfinished by the end (not likely though) I’ll just ask to take it with me.
In more casual restaurants they will also offer wine by the carafe, usually 0.25 and/or 0.5 liter. Often they are not mentioned on the menu but you can just ask. Not likely though that Michelin starred places offer a carafe…
Good points. So what are the terms for a small carafe of wine? Un carafe de vin?
“Pichet” (pronounced pee-shay) is the usual term for a 100-centilitre carafe of wine. You can order “un quart picher” (25 cl or about 8 oz) or un demi (50 cl).
I rarely order “un pichet” of house wine or a bottle to last for the entire meal, and much prefer to match my wines to the food. I usually have one glass for the starter and another for the main, and let the waiter suggest which ones go best with what I have ordered. Of course, not always possible when there is not a good selection of wines by the glass.
In addition, with wines by the glass, watch out for bottles that have been open too long and the wine has begun to oxidize. If you have any doubts, ask when the bottle was opened.
Thanks for the info on “pichet”, Parn. I always assumed that it was a word interchangeable with “carafe” (and restaurants have treated it as such when they offered wine by a 25 or 50 cl carafe – but then they know I’m not French). I’ll use the term more accurately in the future.
Carafe and pichet are indeed more or less interchangeable. I almost always say pichet instead of carafe but probably just a matter of style and my tribal allegiances. I am sure there are some French who more commonly ask for “une carafe” when ordering the house wine. It’s just that “un quart pichet” rolls off the tongue easily and sounds more natural to my ear while “une quart carafe” does not.
That’s always the dillemma. Do you choose one type of wine to go with your entire meal, or do you match?
It makes a lot of sense to have 1 matching wine for your 1st course and then 1 for your main. But I always find myself wanting an extra glass inbetween courses, which then usually end up coming to the same price as having a bottle.
At Virtus we decided to have a bottle of white, as my partner chose fish for her main, and then the waitress suggested a nice glass of red for my main course of lamb. That’s one way to address this issue.
Another way is a novel way for me, which I experienced yesterday at a local restaurant. Imho this is how it should be done! We indeed asked for a matching wine for both the starter and the main, but then they would leave the open bottle on our table, giving us the chance to pour an extra glass. Not sure how they ended up charging us (business lunch so didn’t see the bill), but this was perfect and I hope to see this more often.
If you want a change from French food, the Ukrainian Le Borscht et La Vie Pop-Up at La Bourse et La Vie bistro, taking place throughout the month of May, looks interesting! We don’t haven any upscale Ukrainian restaurant food like this in Toronto.
This pop-up is running until May 30th.
I somehow have equated carafe with water as in carafe d’eau, and pichet with wine. As you suggest, probably an unconsciously acquired habit.
The wine matching gets even more complicated for us, since my wife and I have somewhat different tastes in both white and red. We usually will just compromise by allowing the staff to match glasses to our courses but that doesnt always work. Earlier this week (in Quebec City at a place called Le Pied Bleu which emulates a Lyon Bouchon — just thought I’d mention that for Parn), we both had heavy mains but wound up with very different glasses of red after the waiter asked about what we generally like and brought some tastings.
The food does affect the taste/enjoyment of the wine. Some wines that I like on their own become disagreeable with certain foods and, similarly, many wines that I haven’t liked on previous occasions suddenly become very likeable depending on the food. Tasting the wine before eating the food is, for me, useless and misleading. I totally rely on the waiter/ somm to do the matching. After all, most waiters have spent 18- to 24-months at a specialist centre de formation/ vocational school learning about food and wine and know the restaurant’s cuisine and wine list far more than I do.
Admittedly, I am not a big wine-drinker and rarely have more than two glasses (of different wines) during the meal, and never as an apéro. Yet, an excellent “accord mets et vin”/ matching wine and food is one of the joys of eating in a good restaurant.
@SteveR. A bouchon lyonnais in Québec ??!! Why oh why ? A bouchon should never be exported and re-created, even in O Canada-land. A sort of theme restaurant ? But better than poutine, I suppose.
I absolutely agree with your wine comments. However, given how most restaurants we frequent have only a few by the glass selections, we are forced to not only compromise on what we’re drinking, but only choose one bottle to have with dinner. That’s another reason that I’ve always appreciated dining in Italy or France; the by the glass selections are much greater and are more often deliberately chosen to complement the food being served.
As for the Quebec City bouchon lyonnais we recently went to…. well, it was attached to a butcher shop & they made varieties of blood sausage in house, as well as having fresh goose and duck on hand. So, what might be duplicated on every Lyon bouchon menu was an opportunity to have this food without trekking to Lyon. You wouldnt deny Canadians (& visiting N.Yorkers) that, would you?
By the way, when Daniel Rose opened Le Cou Cou in NYC, my friends and I immediately went to eat what we couldnt find good renditions of elsewhere, including quenelles. And I just had an incredible quenelle at Joe Beef in Montreal as well. And, yes, much better than poutine.
Vin à la ficelle where I live (Beaune région) no string involved. Google it. It’s the concept of paying for what you’ve consumed. Very popular in the 16th century.
We experienced this in the mid-eighties during a dinner we had at La Brasserie d’Isle Saint-Louis. Don’t know if that is still a regular practice there as we haven’t been in many, many years. Our first time with this experience, and our last – haven’t seen it since. Because it was so unusual, that’s why I still remember it. Would love to see it done more widely.
What a nice memory this sparks – I’m tempted to say it remains so at Brasserie d’Isle Saint-Louis, where we’ve enjoyed this practice (always with Alsatian riesling) at lunch many times. But alas, our most recent was now a while ago, in Sept 2019. (By the way, same waiters we’ve seen there for many years now!) We’ve also experienced it out in the countryside, here and there – most recently in the lovely Jura.
It is indeed a gesture of inclusive hospitality one occasionally finds when one is lucky.
I agree and not just an unconsciously acquired habit.
Carafe is the term usually used for a pitcher of water in Parisian cafés and restaurants. If you ask for “une carafe d’eau”, you will get something between 25cl and 1l depending on the place you’re in and on the number of guests at your table. Water by the glass or in a carafe is free when ordered with food. Should you just ask for water, you would probably be end up being offered bottled water (either “plate”/still or “pétillante”/sparkling) which is not free and might indeed on occasions be surprisingly expensive.
That said, if you order an old vintage red wine in an upscale restaurant, they may ask you whether you want it served in a “carafe”, meaning decanter in that context.
To get a carafe of wine, one usually asks for “un pichet de vingt-cinq” or “un quart (pronounce ‘car’) de (vin rouge, de blanc, de rosé, de bordeaux, de sancerre…)” for 25cl or for “un pichet de cinquante” for 50cl. If you order “une carafe de vin”, you will of course get your wine. It’s not really incorrect but clearly unusual.
So far, I’ve rarely if ever seen house wine offered in 1l pitchers in a Parisian café or restaurant.
I’ve tried to be precise here and hope my comments do not come across as obnoxiously pompous.