How to order wine in a restaurant

how to order wineHow to order wine

By Mark Adams

Mark is a professional winemaker, former winery owner, author and frequent speaker on wine.  He currently teaches wine classes throughout the United States.

The big day, the celebration, the promotion, the anniversary, the birthday, all big days, right?   If you plan on going to a restaurant and you’re wondering how to order wine, you’re probably more nervous than a grape on crushing day.

Over the years, I have literally seen usually confident, self assured people break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of going through the “wine ritual” of approving the cork and wine in front of the rest of the table.

(They no doubt have not read my book!)  Click here to see a copy The Really Fun Wine Book

Well, I’m here to demystify this age old process for you.  In a few paragraphs, you will realize it’s all pretty simple.

The Sequence of How to order wine in a restaurant

The first thing the waiter or waitress will do is present you with the bottle of wine you ordered.  Usually they will place it over their other arm, draped over a white cloth napkin.  Besides verifying that this is the wine you ordered, the whole purpose of this is to make you feel good about your choice and to set you up as the big cheese in front of your table.

(Hey, they know your are paying the bill and they want you to look good, too.)  They are thinking big tip here.

Smile and nod your approval.

Next they will methodically open the bottle as if it’s a gigantic stage production.  This above all else has a significant purpose.  It’s simply to verify in front of you that the wine you are receiving is from that bottle.  Although today I don’t believe it goes on at all, in the past it was not been above the realm of possibilities for an unscrupulous person to refill an empty bottle of expensive wine with far lesser priced product.

Ah, then the cork sniff.  If you know what to do here, this is where you see the unknowing break down.  You can see it in their face every time.  They sniff, then nod and try not to look foolish.  Then regardless of what they say or do, the waiter will say “very good sir or madam”.

So, OK, what are you sniffing for?  All you are looking for is that the cork does not have some type of funky, swampy smell.  Think burned match, think sulfur.  If it smells like wine, you’re fine.  The reason you smell the cork is that if the cork smells bad, the wine has probably gone bad.

In times past this could be a problem and certainly happened to a fraction of bottles.  But it’s now the 21st century, computerization and modern assembly lines fill and cork most bottles.  This very rarely happens.

So after you approve the cork the waiter will pour a tasting sample into your glass.  All eyes are on you, the big moment…. If you’re a ham, this is your time!  Enjoy the attention, let the momentum build, and then with authority, swirl and sniff you wine.

The table waits.  The world stops, you take a sip, the anticipation grows.  Oh no, is the wine good?  Is the wine bad?  The waiter begins to sweat.  The clock ticks.  You can hear a pin drop.  What will you do

Sorry to be so anticlimactic…but you say its very good!

The waiter will then smile, say thank you, pour a glass for everyone and then you can put the pretense behind you and enjoy your wine and meal.

And people have anxiety over this?  Go figure.  Not so hard is it?   You now know how to order wine and you can do this and do it with confidence!

Next time you’re at a restaurant in this situation, do yourself a favor and laugh a little before you go through this.  You’ll be glad you did.

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