No one likes to look and feel like an idiot when choosing a wine in a nice restaurant, and so I have put together a just few tips to help you avoid embarrassment the next time you are faced with picking out a bottle.
1. Plan ahead.
In this crazy technological age we are living in, a great number of restaurants are posting their wine lists on the web. Maybe it’s worth giving a restaurant’s wine list a glance online before you arrive and choosing a couple of different options. If you want to get really crazy about it, you could even look up the correct pronunciation.
2. Have a budget.
Don’t worry, you won’t look like a tightwad! Well, as long as you’re not dining in a fine restaurant and your budget is under $30 a bottle!
First of all, take a look at the wine list and see what the average price of a bottle is, and then go from there. You should approach the issue of budget with something like “I’m looking for a California Cab or Blend, something in the $40-$50 range, and maybe a wine that I haven’t tasted before.”
With a statement like this, you have at least partially shifted the focus from price and have set the Server / Sommelier a challenge to find you a new wine.
DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT when asked by the Server/Sommelier the type of wine you enjoy, regurgitate a list of every expensive wine that you know, such as; “I usually only drink Caymus Cab, Quintessa, or Silver Oak so I am looking for something similar tasting to that.” and then state “Oh and my budget is $30.”
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There is no shame in asking for help with a wine list! Let the Server/Sommelier know wines that you have enjoyed before, whether it be by brand name i.e. Kendall Jackson Chard, Robert Mondavi Cab or grape type i.e. French Chardonnay, Oregon Pinot etc. If the Sommelier is worth anything to the restaurant, they will be more than happy to oblige finding something to fit your needs. If he or she isn’t, well I guess you won’t be going back to that restaurant!
4. Get specific.
Don’t just ask for a “nice bottle of white wine”, make sure you have at least a few flavor descriptors in your head before you open your mouth. Something like “I’m looking for a Chardonnay, I’m not a big fan of an oaky taste, but buttery is fine. We’ve ordered oysters for an appetizer, what do you think would pair best?”
5. Don’t sniff the cork.
Once the wine arrive, please remember that sniffing the cork really won’t tell you much more than the wine you are about to taste. So when the Server presents the cork on the table, just leave it where it is.
When approached by the Server / Sommelier to taste the wine. Swirling white or red in the glass is totally appropriate, but 2-3 seconds and nothing more. Remember, you are trying to open the wine up by exposing it to more oxygen, not trying to turn it into a frothy-foamy mess.
7. Sending a wine back.
This is a tricky one. You should never send a wine back just because you don’t like it. You should only EVER send it back if the wine is genuinely bad. I guess the one only exception to this rule is if you have let the Server/Sommelier choose the wine, and after telling them that you want something along the lines of a sweet German Riesling, and they bring you something like a dry Australian Riesling etc.