'Waiter! I'd like the...um...' House and Home tell us 'how to do it' when ordering wine

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Written by Emily Meddings

Ordering wine at a restaurant can be a daunting experience, there seems to be a certain ritual one must be part of in order to order. This procedure, when oblivious to the rules, can be intimidating. However, if you’re privy to the fundamentals, it’s really rather straightforward.

Thanks to the House & Home ‘how to do it’ guide powered by Quamut and published by Sterling Publishing, ordering wine at a restaurant doesn’t have to be the most embarrassing moment of the evening, so feel free to trip image from shutterstockover on the way to the loo and emerge sporting a trail of toilet tissue longer than the menu.

Here are a few tips direct from the guide to give us a helping hand.

So, first things first...bottle or glass? Now there are many important questions to consider when pondering this particular issue. Would the table drink the whole bottle, or would it be left up to you? Would that really be a problem? Perhaps you would like to sample different wines throughout the evening, if so; ordering by the glass would prevent you getting into such a bewilderingly drunken stupor that you end up singing Bohemian Rhapsody, word for word, at the top of your voice in the taxi home.        

So once you’ve made up your mind, it’s time to select the wine itself. The House and Home guide says, ‘Restaurants typically serve two different categories of wine: house wines and list wines.’ The house wine is what you would get if you simply stated red or white, and while they are usually ‘perfectly acceptable in quality restaurants, they can be on the cusp of dire in slightly more inferior eateries. This is because the house wine has to appeal to many people, which means it can’t be too interesting. Besides, even the best restaurants choose house wines that are as cheap as they can get away with.’image from shutterstock

‘A restaurant might have 15 wines on its wine list – or 150. Every entry on the list will tell you the name of the wine, the winery that produced it, the vintage, and the price for glass or bottle.’ They’re practically spoon feeding you! Or should I say straw feeding. A good way to select wine from a list is to be daring and pick something you’ve never had before but that’s made from a grape variety you know you like. Ok so that’s probably not as daring as ordering something you can’t even pronounce, but we’re taking baby steps here. Other than that you could always consult your waiter, tell him what you like in a wine and ask for a recommendation.

The Wine Serving Ritual
As I said before, there is a procedure in place, knowing what to expect will make you look less confounded, and thus, less of a plonker at the table. So, here we go...

  1. “The waiter will present the bottle to you”: so you can admire the pretty label. No, that was a joke. Really it “allows you to check that the wine is what you actually ordered...so the bottle could be the wrong vintage or even the wrong wine. Also take the chance to touch the bottle and test the temperature. The bottle should be slightly cool to the touch (white wines slightly colder than red).”     
  2. “The waiter removes the cork and presents it to you”: because he did so with such flair and would appreciate a moment of your time to express your gratitude. No, once again, a joke. This is so you can check it, “the condition of the cork can hint whether a wine has spoiled. If the cork smells bad or seems shrivelled or wet, the wine may be bad.”
  3. “The waiter pours a little wine into your glass”: because you’re already sloshed and he thinks you probably shouldn’t have much more. Or so you can “sniff and taste the wine to see whether it’s gone bad. If it has gone bad...be kind but not too apologetic and send it back.”
  4. “If the wine is fine, tell the waiter to proceed: The waiter will fill your guests’ glasses first, then yours.” 

So, there we go folks, now you know how to order wine at a restaurant. No more cringe-worthy fumbling when the waiter approaches armed with a corkscrew and no more nodding knowingly when you don’t really have a clue. So go my fellow wine drinkers, go forth and order.

House & Home ‘how to do it’ guide powered by Quamut is published by Sterling Publishing