Today's wine lovers are more informed than ever. They know what they like, they know where to get it, and how to serve it right. Restaurants have to work hard just to meet the high standards of their guests. By playing close attention to presentation, preservation, temperature, and quality of service, they can add value to the wine itself. In other words, take a premium product and make it a premium experience.
At Cru Food and Wine Bar in Dallas, they do just this. When it comes to ordering by the glass, guests can choose from 50 wines at many different price points. Flights are also offered for those looking for a little adventure, or experimentation.
First comes the serve. According to V.P. Of Operations Noel Petrin, to serve wine is to also protect its integrity.
“When someone orders, the bottle comes out to the table,” he says, emphasizing how important it is to the integrity of their wine program that customers ordering by the glass see the wine being poured from the bottle. “That way they know where it came from. They see the label.”
This is made possible by a wine preservation system that allows the server to remove the bottle from the unit. With no fixed bottles, plastic straws, or injected gases, Petrin says that he can serve perfectly preserved, perfectly chilled wine, without any risk of altering flavor.
“The preservation system we use, Le Verre de Vin, uses rubber stoppers and a machine that vacuums every bottle,” says Petrin. “So we pour it at table, we go back , vacuum it up, and then we keep it in the climate controlled unit.”
With three different temperature zones displayed at the back bar, one for reds, whites, and a separate unit for champagne, guests can be certain that they are getting the most for their money.
“If you don't have it slightly chilled, if you are drinking room temperature red wine, it's going to be hot on the palate,” Petrin explains. “That is going to cover up the nuanced flavor and bouquet that might come out of that wine. And that's the reason we drink wine.”
A good wine experience also relies heavily on factors like atmosphere, company, and the customer's own mood. All it takes is one iota of doubt – something unfamiliar, a small uncertainty – to set the customer’s perfect wine experience unraveling.
“Sometimes it is very subtle” says Michael Shirinian, owner of The Elbow Room in Fresno, California. “It’s not that the wine is corked, or totally flawed, - it might just be a flavor profile that you aren’t familiar with.” It is important, he explains, to have a server that can engage a customer, understand customer tastes based on a brief encounter.
The Elbow Room’s staff can build these customer relationships with confidence, because their wine preservation system keeps open bottles properly preserved and chilled. Without the worry of flawed wine they can take customer complaints seriously and make skilled recommendations based on individual preference.
"Today's guests have evolved in sophistication," says Shirinian. "The stakes are now very high to leave those customers satisfied."
A lot goes into the perfect serve: presentation, freshness, temperature, and staff engagement. What it comes down to is giving the guest something that they cannot recreate on their own, something that is often too subtle and emotional to put to words. What may seem like mere details to someone in the industry, might be for the customer the difference between drinking wine and experiencing wine at its very best.