Size Matters 

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While our state legislators are mucking around with Utah’s booze laws, policies and regulations, there’s at least some hope that one of the most moronic will be altered. I’m talking about a rule that prevents restaurateurs from placing more than one glass of wine in front of a customer.

According to compliance officers from Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, a restaurant customer must finish the glass of wine in front of him before a server can place a second on the table. Makes sense, right? After all, we don’t want winos sitting around in our restaurants with glasses of Pinot Noir lined up like tequila shots.

So, the UDABC has declared that a restaurant customer may have one 5-ounce glass of wine in front of him at any given time, but not two glasses. This is obviously a regulation that was written by someone who doesn’t understand wine or how people normally drink it.

For example, no consideration is given to the alcohol content of the wine. I mean, if you can have a 5-ounce glass of 14 percent alcohol wine in front of you, ought you not to be able to have 7 or 8 ounces of 10 percent alcohol wine?

More importantly, the “one glass” rule actually encourages overconsumption—clearly not what the UDABC intended. This is particularly true and relevant in the context of dinners where wines are paired with each course. Let’s say, for example, that you attend a celebrity-chef dinner at your favorite restaurant. Chef Flaypuck is preparing five gourmet dishes, each of which will be paired with an appropriate wine, for which there is an additional charge. The first course comes, which is a dollop of Osetra caviar on toast, accompanied by a glass of Roederer Brut Champagne. So far, so good.

But because the restaurant is packed with fans of Chef Flaypuck, the kitchen staff and servers are worried about falling behind schedule. So the servers, attempting efficiency, pour the wine for Chef Flaypuck’s second course—a lovely Viogner—and fan out to deliver the glasses of wine to the restaurant’s customers. The second course salad will follow shortly.

But wait! Because the UDABC has said that customers can’t have more than one glass of wine in front of them at a time, the server can’t set down your glass of Viogner until you’ve finished your Champagne. So what happens? You got it: Not wanting to waste the wine you’ve purchased, you guzzle the remainder. And on it goes for five courses.

Now here’s the moronic aspect of the one glass rule: It doesn’t matter how much wine is in the glass. Portion sizes don’t matter to the UDABC, provided that the wine servings are 5 ounces or less. At a dinner like I’ve described, most customers don’t wish to drink a five 5-ounce glass of wine. So at wine-pairing dinners of this sort, it’s more common to have 2 or 3-ounce “tastings” of wine.

And sometimes it’s nice to be able to compare one Chardonnay (for example) with another, head to head. But that requires having two glasses of Chardonnay in front of the customer in order to compare and contrast flavors, aroma, body and so on. If a restaurant offers small wine “flights” for customers—they risk being cited for violation of UDABC rules.

The idiotic thing about this rule is that even if glasses are only filled with 1 ounce of wine, you can’t have two of them in front of you at one time. That’s right, you can have one 5-ounce portion of wine but not two 1-ounce portions. This is a dumb regulation that, in the end, results in wine drinkers consuming more wine faster than normal. It ought to be changed.

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More by Ted Scheffler

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