Knowing how to order wine at a restaurant can be intimidating. Restaurants can have extensive wine lists and it can be a lot to take in. As things start to open back up and people begin going out to restaurants more, we’re sharing tips and tricks on how to confidently order wine at a restaurant!
Before you get to the restaurant
Before you get to the restaurant of your choosing, perhaps while you’re popping on a fresh new outfit that has been sitting in your closet for all of 2020, start thinking about what types of wine sound good for that night. Depending on the restaurant, you may be able to decide whether you’re thinking reds or whites for the night. In addition, reflecting on the types of wines you love and having an idea of the types of wines you dislike is great to think about walking into your dining experience!
At the restaurant
Once you’ve arrived, take a look at the wine list in addition to the menu. If you’re with a group it may be helpful to decide if you want to start with one type of wine with starters and transition into another for the entrees. An open conversation about your groups' likes and dislikes when it comes to wine is a great starting point.
If the restaurant has a sommelier or someone who is a wine expert on staff, don’t be shy about asking their opinion and having a conversation - that’s literally what they are there for! Having an idea of what you want to order and the types of wines the group likes in general can help them give you great suggestions. Additionally, don’t be afraid to share your price point with them, restaurants take time to curate high quality wines at various price points!
How to pronounce some of the wines
An intimidating part of ordering wine at a restaurant can be pronunciation. Learning how to pronounce classics that are super popular and common can help lower the intimidation factor. Also keep in mind that there is no shame in asking how to pronounce a type of wine, again, it’s the sommelier or wine expert's job to help educate! This article from Tasting Table breaks down basic pronunciation of wines for you to practice at home!
When the bottle comes to the table
At this point, you’ve gotten through the conversation with the sommelier , you’ve asked for recs and pronounced, or mispronounced ;), your wine order. Now it’s time for the fun part - tasting the wine! When the wine is brought out to the table, it’s important to check the label on the bottle, pay specific attention to the vintage of the wine to make sure it’s the same vintage you intended to order. Not all vintages are created equal, some years are amazing harvests and others are not so much. This is a fun list to learn more about vintage years currently peaking!
The first sip
After checking the label, the waiter will offer up the first pour, typically ladies first. This ~1 oz. pour is to ensure the wine has not gone bad. It’s important to note that 10-20% of the time wine in restaurants goes bad. It is no one’s fault, just the way it goes sometimes. If the wine is bad when you taste, send it back. The restaurant will be refunded from their supplier so there is no reason to feel bad about sending it back.
Other important ordering tips
- If you’re buying a wine by the glass, ask the waiter if you can sample some of the wine prior to choosing a glass. Most restaurants have many bottles open, so if they are willing to let you taste a few to choose your perfect glass then you definitely should!
- To Decant or not to Decant? Decanting is appropriate for some, but not all wines. It’s always worth an ask to the sommelier or wine expert if they recommend decanting the bottle you select.
- If you have 3-4 people at a table sometimes you may notice that the first pour for everyone is quite small. This has to do with the wine type and the level of oxygenation that should take place for that particular wine.
- A true restaurant pour ranges from 4oz. To 6 oz.
We hope these tips make you feel a bit more confident when ordering your next glass!
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