Even the most seasoned of us get a bit unnerved when we suspect a bottle just served to us may be “corked.” Yes, it’s possible we may be wrong!
But also, there is the worry that we may be seen as pretentious — even snobbish — or that we may be challenging the server or possibly seeking a free replacement. However, all of us who use wine will occasionally find ourselves in this situation, so, from time-to-time, we dare suggest how best to deal with it. It doesn’t happen often — about 2% of wines are damaged somewhat, usually by corkiness, and most wine servers take pains to assure that a bottle is correct before bringing it to table.
But it has happened. A good way to handle it is to ask the server what he or she thinks. Ask if there’s anything wrong with it. Sometimes, I explain that my wife feels it’s gone off, but I’m not sure. The discussion should never be a confrontation or a challenge. A good server — or manager — will actually taste the wine and most probably agree. Sometimes, a manager will explain that the wine is all right but if you don’t like it, we’ll make another selection.
That said, we also suggest that you don’t question the quality of a wine simply because you don’t like it. That fact may come out during civil discourse, but it’s far more diplomatic and good manners if the doubt is raised collaboratively with the server.
As you read over and over in the wine literature, wine is very complex and subject to many influences. Bottles will vary from time to time, even from the same case. Be not shy raising your concern but understanding and respect will go a long way toward resolving that doubt. Wine is to be enjoyed, and both you and the server know that.