The Official Guide To Ordering Wine At A Restaurant And Not Sounding Like An Idiot

Staring at a wine list ranks high on the list of anxiety-inducing activities. Check out this guide for avoiding being embarrassing AF, with tips for sounding like a wine snob.

Get to Know the Key Terms

Wine terms could fill a dictionary. While you don’t need to know all of the words, you should know at least a few terms before you order. 

  • Bouquet – The aroma of your wine.
  • Dry – Dry wines have more tannin undertones and may make your mouth pucker.
  • Finish – The aftertaste of wine.
  • Full-bodied – Full-bodied wines are low in acidity and drier. 
  • Light – Light wines may have higher acidity and lower tannins. 
  • Oaky – Wooden undertones in the favor of the wine caused by the barrels where the wine was aged. 
  • Sweet – Sweet wines are usually easier for novices to swallow than drier wines. 
  • Tannins – Compounds in grape skin, stems, and seeds that contributes to wine tasting “astringent and dry.”
  • Terroir – The environment, climate, and soil where the wine is grown. Discussed because it has an effect on the taste of the wine.
  • Varietal – The type of grape used to make the wine. 

Prepare Ahead for Wine Selection

It’s been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. This is especially true when you’re ordering wine for a large group. With menus and wine lists readily available online, and sommeliers available to answer questions by email or phone there’s really no excuse. You can even pre-order on the phone and impress your guests with this classy-AF move.

How to Order Like a Pro

  • First, don’t be afraid to talk cents … as in dollars and cents! One of the most intimidating things about ordering wine is thinking that you have to spend  your entire paycheck. You don’t. Tell the server you’d like to spend $50 on a Cabernet or, if you’re uncomfortable, point to a bottle on the menu in that price range and ask for something similar.
  • Second, consider how the wine will pair with the food. Get a consensus of what everyone is ordering and ask the server to recommend a bottle (or two) that pairs well with that.
  • Third, and probably most important, always be specific. Don’t ask for a “nice” bottle of white. Price range and meal pairing are important considerations and the more 411 you share, the more likely the sommelier is to find you something great to drink.

What to Do When the Wine is Served

If you ordered, you’ll be served first. Check the bottle to make sure it’s what you ordered and examine the cork. That doesn’t mean sniffing it like a pretentious jerk, it just means feeling it to ensure it isn’t dry. 

The tasting pour is small. You can swirl the wine for a few seconds to aerate the wine a bit. Then take a sip and acknowledge that the server can pour.

Additional Tips

  • Have fun. Contrary to what the wine snobs will say, wine is a fun experience and not something to stress about.
  • Consider starting with a glass of sparkling wine or white then move to red and finish with something sweet to go along with the dessert.
  • Does the phrase, “when in Rome,” mean anything to you? It should. With wine, it means to consider your setting. When you’re enjoying Italian, order an Italian wine. If the meal is French, go for a French wine. If your meal isn’t regionally focused, look for a wine from an area that catches your attention and share a story. 

Have your own tips or comments to share? Post them here! Jk the comments section is strictly for praise only. 

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