Ordering wine at a restaurant

By John ~ April 11th, 2008.

First of all, beware of a restaurant where there are no wine glasses on the table. They probably have a weak wine list and lack wait staff that really knows wine.

When you do order wine at a restaurant, you can save by ordering a less popular varietal, for example, Sauvignon Blanc instead of Chardonnay, or Zinfandel instead of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Grigio and Shiraz are also usually safe, lesser expensive choices.

20080411_restaurant.JPGStay at the more moderately priced end of the wine list but not at the bottom. Pay no more than two to three times retail for a bottle of wine. You don’t need to have your ultimate wine experience in a restaurant. In fact, it wouldn’t make sense to try because of the high markups on restaurant wine. Keep in mind that there are five glasses of wine in a bottle when deciding whether or not to buy by the glass or the bottle. (Photo by bryce_edwards)

Once you have ordered a bottle of wine, make sure it comes to the table unopened and that it is the name and vintage that you ordered. After it is opened and you have an initial smell (of the wine, not the cork) and taste, if you believe that it is a bad bottle (either corked or oxidized), ask the server if he would have a taste and tell you what he thinks.

By the way, some sommeliers will sniff the cork after they’ve opened your bottle, as if that’s telling them something about the wine. It isn’t, so show your intelligence by not following suit. And if he or she makes some laudatory comment about the aroma of the wine after sniffing the cork, you’ll know it is just part of the show.

One final note: Find out whether yours is a state where it is legal for a restaurant patron to take home any leftover wine that was not consumed in the restaurant.

Filed under: General Wine Information

Reader's Comments

  1. Bottled Up | April 11th, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Nice post John. I think you’ve given some great information that will empower the wine consumer to confidently order wine at a restaurant.