Tips In Choosing Your Wine At The Restaurant.

  • Post Written by John Kairupan on December 3, 2009
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photo courtesy of get directly down

What’s the secret to selecting a great wine when dinning out?

Most wine drinkers drink a glass of wine with dinner each night. And, most of them know what to order when dining out at a restaurant. I am not one those wine drinkers and I am certainly not a wine connoisseur. But there are times when I enjoy having a good glass of wine with my meal.

So how do you begin to choose the right kind of wine in a restaurant, without making this a chore or looking rather stupid in doing so?

Well, I have asked my dear friend Marcos who works as a headwaiter in one of Sheraton’s finest hotel this same question. “If you simply want a good meal, you don’t need to try to impress anyone in the restaurant with your wine order”, said Marcos. Here is what I’ve learned as some basic wine selecting tips.

Ordering the wine

You have the option to go by the glass or by the bottle.

It’s less expensive to get a bottle if two or more guests are having a couple glasses of wine. Make sure that you know your approximate budget before you peruse the wine list.

Beware that the house wines frequently have a high mark up for the restaurant and usually not the best value or quality. If asking the server for suggestions, try asking about a particular wine in the price range you are considering. They will usually pick up on this clue and not suggest wines out of your budget.

You’ll be much more limited in your selection when ordering by the glass.

However, you may order random wines in restaurants, by the glass. Most restaurants serve very “middle of the road” wines that appeal to the widest range of palates. Each time you go out, try a different wine and keep a notebook of which one you like, which you don’t like and why. Soon you’ll see a pattern of what types you enjoy and those are the ones to then try different brands of and learn more about.

Decide on red versus white. That eliminates half the list right away.

If ordering for a group of people, you might order a red and a white bottle to satisfy a broader range of preferences.

Don’t be afraid to ask for wine recommendations from your server. Some fine restaurants have a wine expert on hand. Listen to their suggestions, but don’t be bullied into any decisions, especially if you feel they are simply pushing a high mark up wine or one too expensive for your budget.

Inform the server the type of wine you are looking for, such as a heavy or fruity red, or an oaky or dry white.

The Serving Ritual

After you have made your decision, the server will serve the wine in a ritual that may seem odd to novice wine drinkers. Here is the process and what you need to do.

1. The server should first show you the bottle before it’s opened. Inspect the label and vintage to make sure it is in fact what you ordered. Sometimes the restaurant will be out of the specified vintage and will bring you a different one. Now is the time for you to decide whether this is acceptable.

2. After opening, the server will present you the cork. Simply make sure it is not dried out and cracked. Note: Sometimes white wines will form white crystals on the cork. This is normal and is not a sign of a fault.

3. When the server pours a small amount in your glass, check the aroma to make sure there are no strong, offensive odours. If unsure, smell again or ask your server.

4. Now taste the wine. Just a sniff, a sip, and a swallow will do. Once you have tasted the wine and feel it is not faulty, a simple nod or an “it’s fine” will inform the server to start filling the glasses. The server will now decant the wine if necessary and then fill the guest’s glasses first and finish with your glass.

Ordering wine doesn’t have to be an ordeal, nor does it have to be scary or intimidating. Just remember these basics. Once you’ve gone through the motions of choosing and accepting the bottle with a sniff and a sip, you’ll be a real successful wine ordering pro.


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