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This is a topic I've been giving some thought to for a while because of some good and some bad experiences. But it came to head after my two most recent experiences: one where I did not order the pairing with a 7-course prix fixe at a Grand Award hotel restaurant, and a second, last night, where there were insufficient choices with which I am familiar to pair with what I had come to expect from a favored local establishment.

At the first, we ordered a half-bottle of a fine, fine Louis Michel Chablis 2018 for the early courses, and because it was a weekend to splurge, a Marcassin Pinot 2012 for the later courses. We were stunned by our choices; for us, they fit perfectly with one of the best meals we've ever had.

Unfortunately, last night was the exact opposite. The restaurant was one we had been to several times; all excellent and very enjoyable meals in the past. But we had not been there in a while and the approximate 60-bottle list was heavily weighted toward lesser known producers in areas of Italy with which I am not terribly familiar. There was no somm per se, so I opted to trust the server who recommended the pairing, only to discover that every wine that came to the table throughout the six-course pairing (save the dessert) was taken from the "By the Glass" section of the wine list. We were entirely underwhelmed, to say the least.

Understanding that the restaurant industry is going through rough times these days, I made no mention of our disappointment, tipped the server generously, but left this almost $400 evening ($95 for the meal and $45 for the pairing) thinking it's going to be tough to return for at least a while. (To be clear, I wasn't expecting miracles with a $45 dollar pairing, but something a notch or two above quaffable would not, I would think, have been too much to ask.)

So, these are both ends of the spectrum, and I'm hoping to survey your opinions on just about any issue dealing with prix fixe menus and wine pairings. But I'm especially curious about whether you are of the opinion that far too many restaurants are pairing their courses with glasses from bottles that either are not moving out of the cellar otherwise, or are using the pairings as a means to vaunt lesser bottles of serviceable wines into some sort of experience curated just for you.

Also, do you usually order the pairings? Do you (as I have in the past) use it as a means to find new and untried wines or regions? Do you feel you're getting a good value? How often do you recognize the wines you are served with your multi-course meal? How often do the pairings work vs. not work for you?

And, frankly, I'd love to see a publication such as Wine Spectator delve deeply into this issue and provide us all with more information that would help us through what is often an unknown and speculative area of enjoying wine. 

Last edited by Mike in CT
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a 7 course meal for a 95$ meal and a 45$ pairing expecting 7 different wines is probably setting expectations way too high on the caliber of wines being served.  at roughly 6$ a glass, you probably shouldnt expect anything but the by the glass wines that are already at the resto.  That said you should definitely trust the chef to at least try and pair their foods with the list.

As a rule, I always skip wine pairings if I dont see the wines beforehand.  Some pairings are just overrated.  Sitting through 7 courses with 7 different wines isn't enjoyable to me unless there is a specific reason, ie the chef used the wine in both the dish and what would be served or the Somm is just really spot on.

Personally, I like to order 2 bottles for a long coursed pre fixe.  You get to see the wines evolve, you can use it as either a pairing or a palate refresher or just something to enjoy while waiting upon the courses.

A sure sign that the wines would be poor was the price listed.  Would expect that the wines would be at least twice what they listed.  I also avoid the wine makers pairings/dinners.  The meals are normally the restaurant's main fare, with a wine they are pushing.   For sure not cooked with.

For sure there should have been a listing of each wine to be served along with the menu.

Last edited by flwino

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