Ordering Wine in a Restaurant

Ordering wine in a restaurant can be really intimidating for someone not highly educated in wine. More often than not, the wine list will be long and if you are ordering wine for the whole table, you feel anxious. Remember, the wine steward or restaurant staff will be able to suggest something for you, however, there are some things to remember when ordering wine.

One of the first things to keep in mind when ordering wine is the budget you’ve allowed on the meal. A wine list should have wines in several prices, so keep in mind that one bottle of wine will generally serve three people who are drinking in moderation. Make sure that your server understands what price range you want to stay under, even if you have to speak to them discreetly.

Second of all, if you are ordering the wine for all the people at your table, ask them if they have a preference for red or white wines. If the results are varied, you can go for a light-bodied red wine or a heavier white. Either of these will go well. Again, remember that the restaurant staff is there to help and offer suggestions.

Generally, when you look at the wine list, you will be able to recognize some of the wine producers and may be able to recognize a wine that you like. While this may be a safety method, don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it means sticking to the same producer.

Once you have ordered the wine, the next thing is what to do when it arrives at your table. The first thing you want to do is make sure that they have served you the bottle that you ordered. If it is not what you ordered, send it back. If you’ve received the correct bottle that you ordered, make sure that the bottle is sealed. Keep in mind that there are a few restaurants that will have already removed the cork before bringing it to you.

When the server places the cork from the bottle in front of you, it is best to ignore it. The only way to tell if the wine is good is to taste it. However, before you taste it, when it is poured into your glass, look at it. It should not be cloudy or filled with particles. If you notice a few particles, they may just be from the cork. If the wine is cloudy, send it back. There may be reasons why it is and regardless of whether a young wine or unfiltered wine, it is probably a bad quality wine.

The next thing to do, if the wine is clear, is to swirl the wine in the glass. While some worry too much about spilling the wine while doing this, if you practice, it becomes very easy. Just put two fingers on either side of the stem near the base of the glass, and simply make small circles, keeping the bottom of the glass on the table. Once you’ve swirled it a few times, bring the wine to your nose and sniff. There are certain types of smells to watch out for, such as a vinegar odor, sour milk, cooked cabbage, wet dog, and a rubber smell. These smells tell you the wine is either off, needs to be decanted, or it could just be a bad cork. Either way, if the smell is strong you want to send it back.

If the wine has passed the sniffing test, the next step is to taste it. Most likely, if it passed your visible inspection and sniff test, the wine should taste good. If it tastes really bad, however, don’t be afraid to send it back and make sure not to order it again in the future.

The main thing to remember about ordering wines in a restaurant is that your wine steward and restaurant staff are there to help you. While there may be some “snotty stewards” out there, don’t be afraid to step up and try something new.

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