The Vagenda

Why Does The Patriarchy Keep Taking Away My Wine?


Having once been a waitress myself for a whole three hours before being fired for dropping plates and accidentally pouring wine on a customer who shouted at me, I am usually sympathetic and polite to restaurant staff. I get it, I know what it’s like, and I don’t want to be an arsehole. But there’s one thing that’s been igniting my ire recently, and been sapping away at my sympathy, being as it is a Very Bizarre Thing happening at uncomfortably frequent intervals. And this is, of course, the issue of the Gendered Wine Tasting.

As a disclaimer, before I go on, I should point out that this applies in the main to heterosexuals, for reasons that will be imminently clear. At this point you are offered the choice of ignoring the rest of this article, but should you so desire, press on.

When sitting at a perfectly charming establishment’s table enjoying a delightful dinner with your significant other, someone you’re pretending to have an important meeting with, or some weirdo you found on Tinder and managed to persuade into a suit for the evening – but who may yet still wrap you in bin-liners and preserve you, Damien Hirst-style, in his loft – you might decide to splash out on some wine. This could be either to lubricate the flagging conversation with said internet pervert, or just for the sake of spending an extra needless 15 quid, but either way, you’re drinking.

Now, I ain’t talking just any old plonk. Same as I ain’t talking about just any old place. The kind of throbbing dive where the walls are peeling due to the condensation of a mixture of sweat and fear is not the kind of place up for debate here, so change your imagery. I am talking SWANKY SHIT.

You decide to order the booze. Obvs I mean something slightly more sophisticated than a Neknominate cocktail; I mean the kind of thing you have to ask the waiter for, because it’s written down on a menu on actual paper, perhaps in French or ancient Etruscan.

You attract the waiter’s attention, either by clicking your fingers imperiously as if Britain still governed the colonies and everyone is still in jodhpurs, or alternatively by nervously catching his eye and looking away again just as quickly, like a 13 year old boy at a disco.

You order. Depending on how the evening’s shaping up, you may plump for higher alcohol content over quality. We’ve all been there.

What seems to happen next is something that I find so utterly galling that even writing this makes my armpit hair clench, fold itself into a pliable ball and roll away like tumbleweed.

Because the fact is, in this scenario where one of you is me and the other is my partner, one of you has a peen. The other looks like she probably has a vaj hidden somewhere. Peen and vaj are seated at opposite ends of the table. The waiter arrives, bearing wine.

He pours it for the peen first.

Bit annoying, but never mind. Whatever happened to ‘ladies first’, eh? Some kinds of entrenched patriarchal subjugatory hierarchies assuming the weakness and fragility of the fairer sex, I can cope with. First dibs on the lifeboats on the Titanic, for instance.

So the peen is in a suit (probably. Maybe he’s in a horrible hipster outfit made entirely out of kale, but same difference) and he’s sitting opposite you and he gets his wine. The waiter steps back. You extend your glass, natch. What transpires then is, frankly, just too appalling for words, but I’ll try. The waiter just stands there, arms akimbo. He seems to be expecting something. A pat? A biscuit? A friendly squeeze?

Oh. It seems he has finished. The besuited peen takes a satisfied sip, swirls it around his mouth and, nodding sagely, bellows: “This wine pleases me…fetch me some more! Bring mead! Bring slave girls! Tonight we will feast and be merry!”

Well, maybe something not quite along those lines, but with a similar sentiment. The waiter looks on, most satisfied, job done. It seems that the wine has been unanimously approved by all important parties concerned. Only then, after a really dramatic and tense pause whilst he awaits approval, does he deign to pour it for me.

If I’d been waited any longer for the wine that wasn’t fucking appearing last time this happened, I’d have been collecting my bus pass. What would’ve happened if he’d found out that I was actually England’s most prominent up-and-coming regional expert on wine and its niceness, come down especially for the day from my enormous wine farm where I farm wines? INCIDENTALLY, I’m not, but he didn’t know that. What’s important is that I could’ve been.

So I had to sit there, mute yet apoplectic, because, you see, my silly lady tastebuds are simply not well developed enough to tell the difference between nice wine and shit wine or, heaven forefend, even to decide for myself what tastes nice. It’s honestly quite shocking I’ve lived this long without someone at my side round the clock to follow me around Waitrose, making sure I don’t ingest anything poisonous like car park tarmac or accidentally buy a shipment of quinoa in a premenstrual rage. Frankly, if it had been me making the wine decisions I’d have probably plumped for something that was really vinegary with cork bits floating in it, or worse still, an inferior rosé. Must be something to do with the moon.

I was so surprised when this happened to me the first time that I didn’t even have time to harrumph indignantly, 1920s colonel-style as though from behind a nice big walrusy moustache.

The third or fourth time this actual real life situation happened and I had more time to take stock, I said, cringing behind my natural British politeness which expressly forbids me from saying or doing what I really think: “Er. Excuse me. I would also like to try the wine, actually.”

This time, and I’m actually serious here, the waiter LOOKED AT THE MAN OPPOSITE ME FIRST. To check. It was the sort of grown-up glance I imagine new au pairs give to the mothers of their small charges when they’ve demanded something in a grey area, as if to say, “Is she allowed to play with the glitter glue just before lunch?”

I felt so infantilised in that split second that I was, if you can suspend your disbelief, rendered fucking speechless.

The guy had to nod in embarrassment to the waiter, on my behalf, mainly because my uterus and ovaries had amalgamated into a huge vengeful tidal wave of oestrogen like that scene in The Shining, and hung, pendulous, in the air, threatening to engulf the whole restaurant with its wrath.

But then the fire alarm went off and the crowds in front of the fire exits parted before me and my helpless womb as though I were Moses himself.

As I said: some gendered patriarchal behaviours, I can live with.


42 thoughts on “Why Does The Patriarchy Keep Taking Away My Wine?

  1. Isn’t the first tasting to check whether the wine has gone bad rather than if it’s good or not?

    In which case isn’t this a reverse titanic situation (i.e. the man has to taste the potentially corked or vinegary wine and the woman does not)? Not that this makes it any better but I think the “peen owners” should be more annoyed by this?

  2. I was once a waitress in this kind of restaurant- and ANON here is right. I was trained to serve men cork-bottled wine first due to the potential of it being corked, and screw-top wine to whoever ordered it. The premise is that women are “spared” corked wine. The reality is wine is rarely corked and you just feel like a bit of a nob serving it.

    Either way, I used to offer either type of bottle to whoever ordered it.

  3. Agreed with anon and Farrah. You don’t try a wine to see if you like it or not, you try it to see if it is corked. It’s not a matter of asking the man/woman if they like it or not.

    Quite disappointed with the title ‘Why does the patriarchy keep taking away my wine?’, and the direction that Vagenda is going in at the moment. Seems to be more focussed on trivial articles rather than the hard-hitting, interesting features of yesteryear.

  4. I am usually the one who orders the wine (as am invariably more fussy about what I’ll drink than whoever I’m out for dinner with), and have almost invariably been the one who has been offered to taste it – even when dining with a chap.

  5. That bit about a hipster in a kale suit made me crack up. I get this too if I am out with my boyfriend they offer the wine to him, prats. I can decide if I like it myself now pass me the bottle and don’t treat me like some kind of eejit with no taste buds

  6. Weirdly, in the 15 years my husband and I have been together, *I* get asked if I’d like to test the wine roughly 85% of the time.

    I like to confuse the restaurant staff by pointing out that I doubt that the wine is corked, so fill the glass up please!

  7. My long-time partner always says “Se has the taste buds”, and the waiter/waitress looks suitably chastened. It does happen every time.

  8. This always happens to me, and I find it very annoying. However, my Dad, who I eat out with every so often, always makes a point of pointing the waiter towards me when they bring the wine over to be tasted, which is awesome. Watching them hastily rearrange their face so as not to look shocked that the responsibility for checking the wine falls with the woman in her twenties rather than the man in his fifties is always amusing.

  9. I also have this problem when my boyfriend and I go out for dinner. He knows nothing about wine whatsoever, he barely drank it until he met me. However, waiting staff always give him the wine list too! Even after he passes it to me and I order the waiter asks him to taste the wine first. Whilst I’m aware this is to check if it has corked or not, my boyfriend wouldn’t have a clue of it was corked half the time! It also makes him feel awkward when gesticulating towards me whilst informing the waiter, “she’s the expert mate”.

    Great article btw!

  10. Yeah, honestly this is quite annoying, and I’m the one with the external equipment. I will sometimes just give it to my wife to try, and to be honest I always do the ordering since I’m the cook etc in the family, but still, it’s just silly. Anon is right though, it’s not about quality, it’s about whether it got corked. Which bottles almost never do anyway. And WTF, I mean if it’s corked no one is drinking it anyway, and it’s just getting poured down the sink, so why not just pour two glasses and whoever discovers it’s corked gets to spit it out and call for another bottle. And act all offended. Of course, it’s quite rare at this point to find a corked bottle, I drink wine with dinner almost every night, and I literally cannot remember the last bad bottle we had.

  11. Tasting wine is not about liking it or not. It’s just to make sure the wine has not gone foul which with the modern industrial wine production happens like once in a hundred thousand bottles. Insisting on ALSO tasting the wine suggests you do not trust your company enough to be able to tell apart wine from vinegar. Which I find a bit patronizing. However, why don’t you just tell the waiter that you will do the tasting before he pours your partner’s glass? I have done that many times and nobody’s ever batted an eye. Actually, my experience is that they usually ask who will be tasting.

  12. Maybe I look a bit butch, or maybe I just give the impression of being a complete wine-o, but even when I got out for dinner with my boyfriend’s parents, I usually am offered the test sip first (if it is with his parents, I tend to defer to one of them, as they’re normally paying…). Very strange!

  13. This is why…

    There are now 140 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of those, 119 are men and 21 are women. There are 219 professionals worldwide who have received the title of Master Sommelier since
    the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

  14. And the problem isn’t only wine tasting either. I’ve lost count of the number of times my boyf has had his wine glass filled more often and with more wine than mine. He always gets a little more in the glass. It’s some kind of wine-peen bonus.
    Is it because they think he’s paying? He isn’t.
    Is it because they think he can take it? That’s probably fair (he’s not a small guy) but I’ll decide whether I want to get trashed at dinner, thanks very much.

  15. Another similar situation I have found myself in recently, is when a bank card is offered as payment, the card machine is ALWAYS offered to my boyfriend.

  16. CC – I get irritated too when it is assumed that my boyfriend is paying.

    On a similar note, he’s a vegetarian, I’m not. Yet whenever we eat out, the waiter/waitress always assumes that as the woman, I must be the dainty veggie, while he is MAN bring him STEAK.

    An ale-drinking female friend has similar experiences at restaurants with her wine-drinking male fiance.

    The gendering of food and drink is so arbitrary, and so annoying.

  17. Words fail me. Feminists today are serious fucking pathetic. specimens. Peen this and ovaries that, as if those are the determining factors in the different of men and women in society. Privileged, pompous, spoilt, middle-class girls living in la-la land. Highly idiotic and self-important. Why don’t you use your freedom and education to do something fucking useful in the world and help women who are truly oppressed you fucking gobshites.

  18. John – interesting that you are spending your time reading feminist websites and commenting on articles which you find deeply annoying instead of “doing something fucking useful in the world”. Genuine question: which of the non-essential activities in your life (i.e reading feminist websites, commenting on articles) do you think you could give up in order to do something more fucking useful?

  19. Well John, words clearly don’t fail you because you use so many of them so brutally, so casually.
    I haven’t visited recently but I’m sure. it won’t feature. just feminists.
    Do tell us, what are the determining factors in the different of men and women in society? You sound like the kind of dude who’d know. Maybe you could do a listicle? Bullet points and numbers help my weak female brain to understand information better. You see, I can’t even do two things at once! I struggle so much even just talking about peen and ovaries that I CAN’T POSSIBLY simultaneously care about domestic violence or female genital mutilation or female infanticide or gang rapes in India.
    What’s your privilege? Anonymity? The powerful feeling of always being right? It must be wonderful, to spend so much of your life righting the wrongs of the world…on a screen…to strangers.
    Here’s a challenge, dearest John. Try to contain your bile for just one day and do something good for the world. Help someone. Even if that means not going onto a forum and ending your hideous diatribe with the phrase ‘you fucking gobshites.’

  20. Hi John,
    Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts. You’ve made a really great contribution and it’s so brilliant to have you here with us, and I think we’ll all be taking your advice on board. Now I’m off to do something ‘fucking useful’, like getting on with my life and forgetting about your irrelevant contribution to humanity. Feel free to call me a gobshite.
    All best wishes,

  21. Have to say, I always get given the wine to taste when I’m out with my boyfriend. But then he is quite shy and I’m *cough* forthright about my want for wine, especially as we only go out for special occasions when we can afford it. So maybe it’s the fact that I’m the one always ordering it, as Farrah says, and then the fact that I give the waiter little choice but to serve it to me with my engaging ‘give me my wine’ smile. Still, if it’s the kind of place that gets the staff to served cork topped wine to the fella first, then maybe it’s also the kind of place that tries to pull the seat out for the woman too… that gets me into more of a raffle than the whole crazy wine tasting thing ever does!

  22. Hi John. I’d love to hear more about your crusade to help the world’s most oppressed women and i think it’s wonderful that you’re devoting time to encourage others to support this cause too.

    I’m keen to understand more about what you think is and isn’t useful in helping ‘women who are truly oppressed’ from your own work and experience. I’m particularly fascinated by your use of angry-posting on a humorist-feminist site as a means to inciting support for truly oppressed women. Is this a sort of grassroots approach you’ve devised yourself, John?

    I was also wondering whether you’d be targeting ALL articles that you feel aren’t directly ‘useful’ to helping truly oppressed women? Will you, for example, be writing ‘do something fucking useful!’ under TV reviews, John? Or under sports articles? Will you be writing it under arts features and music interviews? Will you be calling food writers gobshites, John? Have you considered what you’ll do about trade magazines?

    Lastly, Vagenda editors, do you think you might commission an article from John about his crusade to help the world’s most oppressed women? Because I think it would make a really interesting piece.

  23. I always get asked if I want to taste the wine (corked or not) as I tend to be the one who orders it.

  24. This did make me laugh! On mine and my boyfriend’s first anniversary we went to a swanky restaurant for a nice meal. I ordered the wine, since he knows nothing about it and I am rather fussy – sure enough, when the wine arrived it was handed to him to taste by the same waiter who took the order from me. Not only that, but when our meals arrived – steak for me and fish for him – the waiter popped the red meat in front of the boy. I had to actually ASK for my meal. The response: ‘Oh! Really? The steak’s for you?’ YES. YES IT IS. At the end of the meal they handed me the card machine – lesson learned.

  25. The only time I’ve been to a ‘taste the wine’ establishment, I was with a female, feminine friend. Being hungover and ill prepared for the fanciness of the establishment, having just been declined entry to the local Wetherspoons for looking like a 16 year-old boy, I clearly appeared manly enough to be offered the first taste of wine.

  26. It doesn’t matter why you taste the wine. It’s still sexist. I personally have no idea what corked wine tastes like. My peen must’ve failed me there

  27. I hate that meat is attributed to masculinity. I had a little cheer when Mo Farah did the Quorn advert.

  28. I was a waitress for a few years at upscale places where we had to do the whole wine pouring ritual for guests, and I was always trained to present the bottle for inspection, and subsequently pour the tasting sip, for whoever had ordered it (which was the man maybe 60% of the time, but hardly a noticeable majority).

  29. I work in an upmarket restaurant and the same happens there- we have been trained to present the wine to whoever ordered the bottle, but I always see if the lady or others at the table (if it’s a group) wants to try the wine too. The same applies when presenting the bill at the end of the night- give it to the person that asked for it. With younger people there seems to be more of an equal balance, but with older generations it is generally the gentleman who orders wine and pays at the end of the night.

  30. Great piece. I find it equally annoying when the waiter automatically offers the PIN machine or bill to the man, whoever asked for it. As I often treat my boyfriend to a meal, I’m always annoyed to find that the staff seem to find it odd that I order, ask for the bill, or actually pay.

    I have actually had a waiter say “oh…Ok” in a confused voice when I gave him my credit card rather than my boyfriend offering his.

  31. This reminds me of going along to open houses with my boyfriend. We’d take it in turns to be the one to talk to the estate agent and ask about the place. Almost without fail, whenever I asked about the price or the features of the place, the estate agent would look straight past me and address their answer to my boyfriend.

    I once even had an estate agent persist in talking directly to my boyfriend over the course of my asking three or more questions about the place, as if he was the one who’d asked them.

  32. I find this really bizzare. I’ve been waitressing on and off since the age of 16 and, like Frances (above), I was always told to present the wine to whoever ordered it. I was always taught the principle ‘ladies first’ as well.

  33. This reminds me of another situation which really riles me. When I go out with my boyfriend we tend to take it in turns to buy drinks (seeing as we both work and earn money and all that). So whenever I place an order with a bartender the following scenario always seems to play out – they make it, return to ask my boyfriend if that’s all, slightly bemused I ignore this bizarre behaviour and answer yes, I hand over my money and then the waiter returns and gives the change (MY change which I earned from my actual real life job) to my boyfriend?!!! It makes me want to scream (and then throw the free salted bar snacks in the waiter’s face). I would love to know, does anyone else encounter this?!

  34. I’ve been working as a waitress throughout my under and postgraduate careers. In all of the restaurants in which I’ve worked, I’ve always been taught to ask, ‘Who wants to taste the wine?’ instead of just assuming the guy. Now, naturally, I do this because I know I personally like my wine and if the girl gets an extra sip, then great. Luckily I’ve been able to train all of the male servers to act according to this fashion.

  35. I see that some people have commented similar things as to what I’m about to say, but I just want to reinforce it, and give my own 2 cents.

    I’m a waitress at a fine dining restaurant, and we’ve been trained on how to pour and serve wine. When someone orders a wine, you grab the glasses and the bottle to bring back over to the table. The server is supposed to pour some wine in the glass to be tasted first, and that person is supposed to be whoever it is that ordered it, because they are the person who most likely will buy it, and they are also considered the host. If the taste is okay, the server is then supposed to ‘fill’ glasses, and should fill the hosts glass last.