5 Tips for Ordering Wine at a Restaurant
If you’re not a wine expert and you don’t already have a favorite type of wine, ordering wine in a restaurant can be intimidating, stressful, and potentially embarrassing. Dining out and ordering wine with your meal should not be such a negative experience! Here are five steps to help you through the process of ordering the perfect wine at a restaurant:
1. Decide what you are having for dinner. Food and wine have an actual chemical effect on each other when paired in certain ways. For example, the acid in wine breaks down fat, and the salt in food exaggerates a wine’s bitterness. Therefore, it is always a good idea to settle on a meal first, and then consult with the sommelier for a wise and logical recommendation.
2. Focus on the wine menu. Look for noticeable themes on the list. If there are dozens of Burgundy wines and only a handful of Italian wines, just go with the obvious. It’s that simple.
3. Consider prices. Don’t avoid the cost situation; just get the money question over with right away. Either be straightforward with the sommelier and tell him or her the price range you would like to be in, or discreetly point to a price on the menu and say, “I’m looking for something like this.”
4. Become somewhat familiar with the wine language. By no means do you have to be an wine expert, but having a general understanding of basic wine vocabulary will certainly help you to order an appropriate wine. There are three main factors that play into your wine choice: weight, flavor, and texture. When referring to weight, do you want your wine “light and crisp,” “full and rich,” or somewhere in the middle? In terms of flavor, are you looking for something “sweet” and fruity, or “savory” and earthy? As for texture, wines range from “tart” and “bitey” to “smooth.” For your best chances of satisfaction, be sure to let your sommelier know if you have any specific preferences in each of these three categories.
5. Put it all together and find your perfect wine! If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the clear. Work with your sommelier, inform him or her of all of these pieces of information, and let him or her help you with your decision-making. If you receive your wine and it is too warm, ask for it to be chilled. Who cares if it’s red or white; you’re the one drinking it! If you still don’t like it, send it back and try for something else. Your sommelier may be a little put-off, but oh well. You’re the customer, after all!