One of the best parts of dining out is finding a bottle of wine that goes perfectly with the meal you are enjoying. However, many people become terribly confused when ordering wine at a restaurant, the reason most times being that they don’t understand how to navigate the wine list.
Following are 6 easy tips to help you navigate that wine list like an expert and order the right wine for that meal you are about to enjoy.
1. Start with something light – starting your meal with a glass of the wrong wine can all but ruin your appetite. This is a common mistake made by many people who want to stick to that rich red wine that they usually enjoy. However, ordering a glass of heavy wine will make it hard to get through your meal. Most chefs serve a light course at the start of a meal, so it makes sense to choose a wine that is crisp, light and refreshing, maybe even a sparkling wine.
2. If possible, avoid “by the glass” wines – while it is definitely more convenient to order a glass of wine rather than a whole bottle if you’re dining on your own, the same does not apply when you are dining out with family and/or a group of friends or business colleagues. In this case, your best option is to buy a bottle of wine, even more so if you and your dining partners all enjoy the same type of wine. Not only will wine per glass cost more, but buying an entire bottle of wine will more than likely be of better quality too, than that of the wines available by the glass.
3. Follow tasting notes – it can be rather daunting trying to choose from a wine list with strange-sounding grape names, especially for those who aren’t familiar with wines. However, it’s not necessary at all to be confused and become stressed out when you’re confronted with those grape names, since most wine lists today contain tasting notes for each wine offered. If you follow these guidelines, there is less risk of you ordering something that you’re not going to enjoy with your meal. In the event that the wine list has no taste notes, ask your waiter to explain each of the wines you’re interested in and do not hesitate to ask questions about which dishes each wine is best paired with.
4. Let your food guide you – most people, when preparing to order wine, look through the list and choose a wine that sounds good to them at that time. However, what many people forget is that the wine they order to have with a meal must be one that properly complements the food. If the pairing isn’t done correctly, then neither the food nor the wine will be enjoyed. Ideally, the wine you choose should be versatile enough to be enjoyed with a few different types of foods, so that you don’t have to order a different wine for each course.
5. Be careful of markups – you are not alone if you’ve ever been tempted to order the priciest bottle of wine on the list. However, one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is to order wine based entirely on its cost, especially since the markup on bottles of wine at restaurants can be as high as 300%! The fact is that the quality of a mid-priced and most expensive bottle of wine is so similar, that most people can’t tell the difference. You can rather save your money and enjoy that really expensive bottle of wine at home, on your own.
6. Swallow your pride – you, like most other people, would probably prefer being able to navigate a wine list and order the right wine to go with your meal. However, it’s a lot easier to simply get help from a professional who can give you advice on the whole ordering procedure and if you’re fortunate enough to have a sommelier on hand to help you, grab the opportunity! Sommeliers are specially trained to help diners like you to make the right choice in order to have a wine that goes perfectly with their meal. So, if it’s just your pride preventing you from asking questions, then swallow it and speak to the sommelier, the expert, about which is the right wine to have with your meal.
The next time you go out to dine at a restaurant and have to order wine to go with your meal, don’t be intimidated by the wine list. It takes plenty of experience to order from these lists, but remind yourself that no wine list is so confusing that you are unable to choose a good wine. Make your choice with confidence and enjoy your meal!