So you are at your favorite restaurant and out comes
the intimidating, leather bound wine list, which can
often have anywhere from 20-40 different types of
wines from various countries with equally varied
pricetags. How do you go about ordering wine for
your table? First, remember that the trained wait
is there to help and not hinder. Most restaurants
that offer decent wine lists will also offer decent
training for their servers. Ask which wines are
their best sellers, which wines will partner well
with the entrees you are leaning towards and
ultimately which wines are in your price range?
The Wine List – What’s Included
A well-written wine list will include the wine’s
producer and country of origin, the vintage,
specific varietal tasting notes and offer
suggestions for ideal food pairings. Get a feel for
everyone’s wine preferences – white or red, sweet or
dry and what types of food people will be ordering.
If there are votes for both whites and reds,
consider a palatable compromise - leaning towards a
heavy white, like an oak-filled Chardonnay or a
lighter red, a Pinot Noir or even a light-bodied
Merlot. Or go crazy and order one of each. Keep in
mind that a typical bottle of wine (750 ml) should
serve 3 people enjoying in moderation. On a
linguistic note, if you are uncertain of a wine’s
pronounciation, and don’t want to go out on a limb,
refer to the bin number if available or point to the
selection and wait for your server to do the honors
– it happens all the time.
The Decision Is Made, Now What?
Buckle up, the winning wine is on its way. First
things first, the server should show you the
unopened wine’s label so that you can verify that
the wine that has arrived is in fact the wine you
ordered. Check the
, vintage and producer. After the wine label checks
out the server will open the bottle and present you
with the cork. Now what? No need to smell it, like
Hollywood advocates – but do take a look at the end
to make sure it hasn’t crumbled (an indication that
it may have been stored improperly) and see that the
cork is not dried out or cracked throughout. Next
the server will pour a small sample for you to taste
. Begin by observing the wine’s color and clarity.
Is it cloudy or brownish in color? Only very old
vintages should have this appearance. Now give the
wine a good sniff. Do you smell any vinegar (sign of
oxidation) or musty cork (sign of faulty cork)
smells? Taste the sample, is it in good condition,
free of any apparent oxidation or “corked” flavors?
If so, tell your server that it is a keeper and
he/she will pour the selection for the table.
Quick tip - this process from label check to
tasting check should only take about 30 seconds.
A great wine can bring a whole new dimension to your
dining experience. Ordering the wine should be just
as enjoyable as drinking it. Keep these tips in mind
the next time you are holding the leather-bound list
and you will be well on your way to making an
informed decision in selecting and enjoying the
winning wine(s) to join your table.
A restaurant's resident wine expert that has
extensive knowledge about the wines ordered and
served; while offering solid recommendations for
pairing the foods with wines. (Pronunciation:
Varietals refer to the specific variety or type of
grape used to make a wine. For example, Merlot and
Cabernet Sauvignon are two different types of red
wine grape varietals. (Examples:
Pinot Noir is a tricky varietal to grow.)