Spilt the difference

Q: We were out to dinner when I accidentally tipped the bottle of wine on our table, spilling quite a lot. The waiter offered to bring another bottle (there was only about a glass left in the first one) but when the bill came, we were charged for both. I didn't make a fuss but since the spilt bottle had been placed in an awkward spot should the restaurant have covered the cost?

A: Was it - ahem - your first bottle for the evening? Your question would be easier to answer had the waiter spilt the wine, in which case, it would certainly be the restaurant's responsibility to make good the loss.

Where it's the fault of another customer - not a member of your party - the restaurant might also pick up the tab. Diners don't routinely go sweeping bottles off other tables but the fashion for shoe-horning restaurant tables into a Tetris puzzle often leaves me holding my glass and my breath when women wielding bags the size of small children try to squeeze past.

But here there appears to be no dispute about who knocked over the bottle. Whether the restaurant gives you another for nix is up to them. If the wine wasn't stratospherically expensive, they might do so, but they're not obliged to.

It sounds like a communication problem: the waiter could have made it clearer that the new bottle wasn't on the house.

>> Are you struck with wine angst? Contact our agony aunt at food.wine@canberra times.com.au.

>> Cathy Gowdie owns Foxeys Hangout winery on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.