Ordering wine at a restaurant can be a stressful and confusing experience – most of the time we’re just figuring out a way to order the least expensive bottle that doesn’t taste like vinegar, but without looking like a cheapskate. You can go from the person at the table blindly agreeing to share whatever bottle everyone else wants to the one who takes charge of the wine list. Here’s our cheat sheet for being faux-fancy at a restaurant:
When in doubt, order the house wine
We often think of the house wine as simply the least expensive option, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad. The restaurant chooses its house wines as a reflection of the brand, so it’s usually a combination of delicious and well-priced that will leave you with a good impression of the restaurant and their choices in wine. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with the variety on offer, just confidently close the menu and ask for the house white or red.
Know your wine glasses
When you ‘cheers’ your table companions, aim to clink the widest part of the glass (i.e. the ‘bowl’), not the rim, which could break the glass and blow your cover as a wine connoisseur. Red wine glasses have a shorter stem and are bigger, which allows for more air to interact with the wine, making it more flavourful. Hold your red wine glass however you want, but know that the reason your white wine glass has a longer stem is so that you can hold it by the stem and not around the bowl of the glass, which will heat up your wine (and warm white wine is a no-no).
Read up before you go
Most restaurants have their wine list on their website, so check it out before you head through. When the waiter brings you the wine list, you can casually stop them and give your order immediately. They’ll be impressed, your table will be impressed, and you’ll feel fancy AF. This is also handy for sneakily checking out prices beforehand!
Know what pairs with what
Anyone who knows wine (that’s you now, remember?), knows which food pairs best with what wine. The general rule is to pair light wine with light flavours and heavy wine with heavy flavours. Think a crisp, white wine with a fish salad, or a rich red wine with a steak. Don’t be shy to ask the waiter for a recommendation with your meal if all this decision-making is stressing you out.
Go with the awkward wine rituals
Waiters are trained to do some weird moves when it comes to serving wine – the trick is to be ready for them and do lots of wise nodding. They wouldn’t do this with a bottle of Coke, but for some reason you need to be presented with your wine bottle and give a nod to indicate ‘yes, that is the wine I ordered’ before they serve it to you. Next, the waiter will pour a little bit in your glass where you will take a sip, pause thoughtfully, then nod (again) to indicate they may pour for the rest of the table. This is so you can ensure the wine hasn’t ‘corked’, and not a chance for you to decide you don’t like the wine and send it back. It’s unlikely your wine will ever be corked these days, but it’s a good opportunity to look like you know what you’re doing and to do some more nodding.
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