6 top tips for Ordering Wine in a Restaurant
How to Order Wine in a Restaurant
Ordering wine in a restaurant doesn’t have to be daunting – and those who are confident with the wine list needn’t choose the same wine style every time. Here’s my six key pointers to ensuring that every time you order wine, you learn something new and possibly find a brand new favourite:
- Ask the Sommelier or Wine Waiter
The first thing you’ll be confronted with is the wine list. Big or small, it can be difficult to choose a bottle if you’re new to the wine varieties on show. The best way to overcome this is to ask your wine waiter or sommelier for advice. In good restaurants they’ll be trained up and know about the wines they’re selling. In great restaurants they’ll give you several options and describe the merits of each one, giving you the choice to choose the ideal wine for your mood and your food.
Make sure you tell them what you like to drink and have a conversation with them so you order the right bottle.
- Order for the Table
If you’re dining with other guests and you’re all having wine then order for the table. Wine is a social being. It always tastes better when enjoyed with friends and loved ones, so make sure you pick the bottle that’s going to be an all-round crowd-pleaser. Ask your fellow diners what they usually drink. If you’re knowledgeable about wines, perhaps you can encourage them to try something new and increase both your enjoyment and their knowledge of wine.
- …With your Food in Mind
But don’t forget what you’re eating. Wines are almost always enhanced by food. If you’re having your wine with fish but your fellow diner orders lamb, then perhaps try a young, berry-full Pinot Noir from the recent New Zealand vintages. The acidity from this often cooler climate wine will pair with your fish, while those juicy redcurrants and peppery, game notes are beautiful with lamb.
And don’t subscribe to the age-old rules of wine and food matching. Take advice, but ultimately drink what you enjoy. That means if you want Cabernet Sauvignon with your shellfish and everyone on your table can’t wait for a mouthful of blackberry rich Bordeaux, then order a Cabernet and enjoy yourself. Similarly if you want a refreshing glass of Italian Gavi with your steak, go for it.
- Don’t be Shy to Experiment
Wine is a field where you learn something new every day. There’s so many different styles and characters that you really can be tasting something exciting every time you visit a restaurant. And why not, you might find yourself discovering a new favourite on a regular basis.
The good thing is that today wine is, especially in restaurants, a luxury experience. So nine times out of ten whatever wine you order is going to be great quality. Perhaps not to your taste, fine, but it isn’t going to be badly made wine. Even the commercial bulk stuff is tasting better than it ever has. So don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if the wine is being offered by the glass.
- Accepting the Wine
In most restaurants, there’s a short ceremony of “introducing the wine” you’ve ordered at your table. Your wine waiter may show you the wine label to confirm it is the correct wine or vintage, before pouring you a small taster. This isn’t to taste if you like it but rather to see if you think the wine is poor quality, most notably whether you think it’s corked. Corked just means the wine has been effected by cork taint, was poorly stored (sometimes if stored in a hot place the wine might become “cooked”), or has been oxidised. This usually results in either a sweet, nutty aroma in a dry wine (cooked), or a damp cardboard smell (cork taint).
If you think this is the case, let the waiter know. Anyone working with wine should know when a bottle is faulty, so they will be more than happy to replace it with another bottle.
Of course the most important thing is to enjoy the wine. Whatever you order, taste it, learn about it, and next time you’re in a restaurant you’ll make an even better choice from the wine list. The more you try, the more you’ll learn and, ultimately, the merrier your wine journey will be.
Images Copyright Ben Franks Wine 2016