Should winemakers order their own wines from wine lists when they go out to dinner?

On Sunday evening, Bele Casel grape grower and winemaker Luca Ferraro asked the following question on his Facebook: What prompts winemakers to go to a restaurant and order their own wines?

At last count, the post had generated nearly 70 comments and had even inspired a humorous post on one of Italy’s most popular wine blogs, Intravino, “Six Good Reasons that Winemakers go to Restaurants and Order Their Own Wine.”

Reason number 6? “Because they secretly hope the sommelier will tell them, ‘I’m sorry, we’ve run out of it,’ and multiple orgasms will ensue.”

Author and celebrity sommelier Adua Villa chimed into the Facebook thread with the following explanations: “A unbridled ego; B insecurity; and C (and above all) a lack of curiosity. And this last reason is the worst.”

Noted consulting enologist, publisher, and author Maurizio Gily weighed in, writing that “the only justification is that its a horrible wine list. But in that case, the producers have to ask themselves why their wines are the list.”

I love how he echoes the Marxist paradox: “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

But he added, however, that “obviously, if the producer is with clients, it’s a normal thing to do.”

With classically acerbic Tuscan wit, celebrity sommelier and blogger Andrea Gori quipped: “Tuscan producers who order their own wines at restaurants never drink them at home.”

In scrolling through the comments on Facebook (hilarious for the most part), it occurred to me that there is a sizable disconnect between Italian and American attitudes on this topic.

In the U.S., it’s common to see winemakers who order their own wines when they go out to eat.

In my experience, there are a number of reasons for this.

Depletion. One of the reasons is that they hope to deplete current stock and prompt the buyer to reorder.

Education. There’s no better excuse for offering a taste of your wine to your sommelier than to have her/him open it tableside for you. The server, for example, may have never had the opportunity to experience the wine.

Quality control. Especially as winemakers travel across the U.S., they like to check up on the fitness of their wines in different markets. Has the wine been stored and shipped properly by the distributor? How did the wine fare in its journey from winery to table? Has the wine been stored and served correctly at the venue?

Of course, narcissism certainly can have a lot to do with it. Let’s face it. It takes robust self-confidence to become a winemaker in the first place. I’ve rarely met a winemaker with a wimpy ego.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as to why and when winemakers should and should not order their own wines when out to dinner.

Jeremy Parzen

This post has 5 Comments

  1. Wayne on 18 August 2015 at 13:18 Reply

    There’s another reason… Marketing! Seeing that bottle on the table! Ordering your own wine in a busy restaurant gets that bottle out of the wine room and onto the table… Visibility is important.

    • Do Bianchi on 19 August 2015 at 8:23 Reply

      so true, Wayne… great point! Thanks for being here, man…

  2. Wineguy on 19 August 2015 at 16:24 Reply

    In our little wine country town, restaurants (who know who you are when you book and arrive) expect you buy the stuff back from them. If you don’t, reorders do not occur. Also the reasons given above: turnover and staff education come into play. Taking out of town business guests out and ordering your wine is also a good move for a small operation without billboard presence in national markets: “See, someone buys my wine.”

  3. Nova Cadamatre on 20 August 2015 at 18:43 Reply

    This is always a complex situation. I, personally, always want to try different wines and being stuck with one bottle of wine all evening is tough, even if it is your own. If you have a group this gets easier to order a bottle of your own and a bottle of a producer you admire or have wanted to try. It’s good manners to the restaurant to order your wine off of their list if they carry it rather than bringing something from home. I also agree with the points above of Depletions, marketing, getting it in front of the server or Somm so they can tell other tables later in the week that “The winemaker was just here the other night…” I do think it would be strange in a multi bottle group to ONLY order your own wine though. One for one would make sense; one bottle of yours for one bottle of someone else’s. Maybe I’m over thinking this…

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