Does Being Young and a Woman Equal Knowing Nothing About Wine? Restaurants Surely Think So.


Working as a restaurant critic requires me to eat out several nights a week, which is an undeniable perk of the job. But several recent dinners have irked me enough to rant about the way I’m treated when it comes to ordering wine. In short, sommeliers and waiters think that just because I’m a young woman, I’m incapable or don’t possess enough knowledge to a) navigate a wine list, b) order the wine, and c) taste the wine. Which is downright insulting.

Here’s a scenario from a dinner two weeks ago. I was dining at a nice restaurant with a male friend about 15 years my senior. When it came time for us to choose our wine after we ordered, he handed me the list and let me discuss the wine with the sommelier. I then chose a wine varietal that I like and picked a bottle that was within the price range I wanted (inexpensive, yes, but not the cheapest on the list). The sommelier returned saying that he was out of that wine, but there was another similar one that he thought would work well with our dishes. I told him that was fine, and he promptly returned with the bottle. Yet when he returned, he showed the bottle to both my male friend and me and poured us both tastes of the wine.

True, it’s possible that this gesture could be perceived as the sommelier’s wanting for us both to experience the wine, but I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that if my dining companion had picked the wine all on his own, we both wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity to sample the wines. And when I’m dining in a group with both men and women, the man will almost always be given the wine to taste even if one of us women has ordered the bottle.

Geez, restaurateurs, get with the program. Women like to drink and know how to drink. We’d probably be even likely to drink more wine if you gave us some respect instead of belittling our drinking capacities. Yes, beverages like Skinnygirl aren’t doing much to help the cause of empowered female drinking, but don’t judge the female sex as a whole.

Now, it’s true that my wine knowledge doesn’t quite rival my food knowledge, and I enjoy asking questions about wines on a menu so I can learn more. That doesn’t mean I’m asking because I know nothing. In fact, I’m confident my knowledge is better than that of most of the men I dine with. Too bad restaurateurs can’t see past my gender and realize it, too.