How to order wine in a restaurant
It is now accepted that some of the fundamental rules about wine were meant to be broken. Some white wines go well with meat and some of the lighter reds are good with poultry and fish dishes. Food and wine matching can be difficult, especially if everyone at the table is eating different things. Here are some tips on handling the ritual of wine ordering.
MAKE USE OF THE WINE WAITER
Many good restaurants have specialist wine waiters—known as sommeliers—who will take your wine order. They are usually highly trained and are responsible for putting the wine list together—and therefore know the contents better than anyone else. They appreciate it when you ask for advice, as they are usually passionate about the subject. The key is to give them a price range. Armed with this, and an indication of the style of wine that you’re after, they will be able to give you some choices that you’re unlikely to select yourself. A good sommelier can actually help you to save money, as well as ensure that you drink something really good. Just decide beforehand what style of wine you’re after and what food you want it to go with—and don’t forget to be clear about the approximate price that you’re happy to pay.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT MISPRONOUNCING THE NAME
An experienced waiter will have heard the name of a particular wine pronounced in more than a hundred different ways and is probably far too busy to worry about such things. And it’s usually a good idea to point at the wine that you’d like on the list, anyway, so that you can be certain that your waiter knows exactly which bottle you want.
DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY THE RITUAL OF TASTING
It’s not a test that you can fail. It’s simply an opportunity for you to check that the wine is not oxidised (vinegary) or that the cork hasn’t started to rot (a musty taste). It will usually be fairly obvious if something is wrong–and you can ask the waiter to taste it, too. The restaurant will happily replace any bottle that is spoiled. And don’t feel under pressure to swill the wine around the glass before you try it, unless you are confident about doing so. Let your waiter know when you’re happy with a wine that he or she has recommended; a ‘thank you’ always goes down well.
For a few more wine tips, pick up Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Book 2014, £9.99.