Ordering a wine out can be a bit overwhelming. There’s so much to take in and consider! And nothing is worse than feeling disappointed with your choice after having paid the huge markup costs of buying wine at a restaurant.
But no worries, with the following few tips, you’ll be ordering with confidence and drinking delicious wine every single time.
So the server or sommelier is presenting the wine menu and throwing out fancy names at a pace you can’t keep up with. They are probably rushed and pressing you for a quick decision. Listen to what they have to say, but then take control of the conversation.
First consider the following:
- The table’s likes and dislikes. Quickly ask others at the table if they have any preferences. If there’s a wide variety of tastes, you might want to consider ordering by the glass so that everyone is content. That’s generally a very expensive move though, so try to find a balance and go for a bottle.
- Your main entree. Though choosing the wine usually comes first, try to have an idea of what you want to eat so that you don’t end up with a pairing that clashes. For example, if you know you’re going to order beef, you’ll probably want to consider the reds. But if you’re leaning toward seafood, you’ll want to focus more on the whites.
- Red or white. Knowing whether you want a red or a white will immediately take off the pressure of not knowing what a certain variety or origin is. You still may not understand exactly what they’re offering, but at least you won’t end up ordering a white when your intentions were drinking a red.
- Fruit-forward or earthy. To get even more specific, consider what taste profile you’re looking for. Old World wines (basically those from Europe) will tend to be earthier and lower in alcohol. New World wines (basically all other producers) will be fruitier and higher in alcohol.
- Price. A very important consideration when it comes to restaurant wine lists. A good way to subtly indicate your price range is by pointing to a price instead of a bottle when speaking with the server. They will hopefully pick up on this and keep it in mind when making their recommendation.
From there, start your conversation with your server/sommelier. Don’t feel intimidated, their job is to help you, not embarrass you.
For example, “Hi there, we’re wanting a bottle of fruit-forward red such as this bottle (point to a fitting price within your range) or this bottle (point to another price fitting within range).”
You’ll also want to mention any dislikes by adding in something like, “I’m not big on Malbec, but other than that we’re open to your suggestions.”
Of course, it’s best to be as specific as possible. So if you know a little more about what you want, by all means let them know after advising about any dislikes. For example, “I love big, bold reds, what would you recommend?”
If you already know what you’re going to order, you could also mention that.
Choosing a wine at a restaurant is all about having confidence and knowing a few simple details. By indicating color, style and price, you can guide the server/sommelier into selecting the perfect bottle for your table.
A bit more on a glass vs. bottle.
As mentioned above, ordering by the glass can get quite pricey. But what if you’re a table of two only looking to have a glass each?
Depending on the restaurant, you might be able to order a bottle and take home what you don’t finish. The restaurant will most likely stick the cork back in and send you on your way. If you had your compact zzysh® on hand (ladies, a purse must, right?!), you could easily seal the bottle and zzysh® it for another moment.
In fact, this fantastic option allows you to spend a little more for a nice bottle, as you’ll be able to savor it at your own pace. The cheaper bottles on a menu usually have the highest markup, so paying more isn’t such a bad idea. Restaurants also tend to offer wines that aren’t always available elsewhere, so being able to zzysh® a bottle truly is a great way to savor something special.