If you are new to wine drinking, then going out to a eat with friends and looking at a long list of unfamiliar wines can be daunting and embarrassing when you are unsure of what to pick. Do not be afraid! Here are some simple tips and tricks on how to order wine at a restaurant with ease and confidence. 😉
Before you go to the restaurant, know a few common varietals of wine that you like, both white and red. Some of my favorites are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, or a Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, think of the regions your favorite wines come from. (My go-tos are a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Valley).
When you get to the restaurant, always try to figure out what you will eat before you order your wine. If you are unsure of what wine will pair best with what foods, ask your server or check out my recent post of Wine and Food Pairing Basics.
Next, you’ll need to decide if you will want a glass or a bottle. This depends on how many people you are with and what everyone will want to drink. Remember, there are about 4 glasses to one bottle of wine, so if you know that two or more of you at the table will want the same wine throughout dinner, going with a bottle will be a better value!
Long wine list menus can be overwhelming, so when looking at the list, try and pick out the varietals you are most familiar with based on what you will be eating. If you are still unsure, do not hesitate to ask your server. They are there to educate and help you decide on a wine that will compliment your meal! Often times restaurants with long wine lists have an in-house sommelier there for that specific reason.
Now, how do you decide on price? We all know that markups in restaurant are quite high on glasses and bottles of wine. Usually 3x the wholesale price. But wine and quality have an inverse effect, so the cheaper the wine, the higher the markup value, and vice versa. So normally, the more expensive wine is a better value. Just have an idea in mind of your price point before you purchase. There is one exception to this rule and that is the second cheapest glass of wine. This is the wine that everyone goes for, because no one wants to choose the cheapest, so it is extremely marked up and not the best quality choice. Oftentimes, the cheapest glass is a very nice selection! Choosing a wine in the middle of the list is always a safe bet. But again, just tell your server your price range and preference, what you are eating, and they can aid in your decision.
– Wines are almost always listed on the menu in order from lightest to heaviest
-If you bring your own wine to a restaurant, there will be a corkage fee, usually $10 or more (call ahead and ask the restaurant before bringing your own bottle)
-If ordering a bottle, always taste and smell it first to make sure the wine isn’t corked!
The more you try new wines and go out to eat, ordering your vino will become easier! Pay attention to wines you’ve tried and like, so you have ideas of your personal preference. Good luck and happy sipping!