Have you ever felt intimated when ordering wine in a restaurant? Do you feel unsure of how to handle the presentation of the bottle and the tasting that follows? Dining out should be a relaxing occasion, not one that causes anxiety. Here are some tips that will help you feel more confident when ordering wine.
Option 1 – Ask your server or the sommelier for their advice. In upscale restaurants, servers should be fairly knowledgeable about the wines they offer and how they complement various dishes. Tell him or her your preferences, what you’re planning to eat, and how much you want to spend. Sommeliers, the restaurant’s staff wine expert, will be happy to select a wine for you. Let them know your preferences and, to silently communicate your price limit, point to an appropriately priced wine on the list and say, “Something like this.”
Option 2 – If you have a wine lover in your group, let them make the choice.
Option 3 – Forget the wine list. Order 1-2 bottles of the house white and/or red. This can be a good choice for almost every occasion. Restaurants choose those wines to match its food.
Option 4 – Order wines by the glass. This is a good way to try several different wines with a meal and accommodate the varying preferences of the group.
PRESENTATION OF THE BOTTLE
The ritual begins when the unopened bottle of wine is brought to your table and shown to you. This is so you can check that the wine they have brought is the one you ordered. Look at the label and confirm it is the bottle – and vintage – you ordered. Simply nod to the server to show that you approve.
INSPECTION OF THE CORK
The server will remove the cork and place it in front of you to inspect. Don’t sniff the cork; just look at it, then nod. The cork should be neither wet all the way through nor dry. Either condition indicates that the wine was stored improperly. Corks should be moist.
Presenting the cork is a tradition that began in the days before bottles were labeled. Wineries began branding their corks to identify their wines so that devious restaurateurs couldn’t pass off ordinary wine to their unsuspecting diners. Servers began presenting the cork to verify the wine’s origination.
TASTING THE WINE
A small amount of wine will be poured into your glass. This amount is intended to be sniffed and tasted. You are to determine if the wine has gone bad, not if you like it or not. It is only appropriate to reject wine when it has turned, not because you don’t like it.
Look at the color; the wine should be clear and lights should sparkle in it. With the glass resting on the table, rotate the glass gently so the wine swirls around. This will release the bouquet. Raise the glass and smell it. If it smells good, you can accept it at this point, as the sense of smell is more acute than taste. If you choose to taste it as well, do that as the last step. If the wine meets with your approval, nod and the server will pour for everyone else.
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