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wine ordering basics
Wine Basics

Just a Sniff, a Sip, and a Swallow...
Here are some basics to follow while you order and select a wine at a restaurant.

1. Choosing a Wine

By the Glass or Bottle?
It’s less expensive to get a bottle if two or more guests are having a couple glasses of wine. You’ll be much more limited in your selection when ordering by the glass.

What Kind of Wine Do You Want?
Decide on red versus white. That eliminates half the list right away.

If ordering for a group of people, you might order a red AND a white bottle to satisfy a broader range of preferences.

What Are You Eating?
Choose a wine that compliments your meal Caesar salad. Visit our food & wine paring section to know more.

Ask Your Server
Don’t be afraid to ask for wine recommendations from your server. Some fine restaurants have a dedicated sommelier, (pronounced som-mel-yay), which is basically an on staff wine expert. Ask if you are unsure.

Listen to their suggestions. Inform the server the type of wine you are looking for, such as a heavy or fruity red, or an oaky or dry white.

2. The Serving Ritual

After you have made your decision, the server will serve the wine in a ritual that may seem odd to novice wine drinkers. Here is the process and what you need to do.

The server should first show you the bottle BEFORE it’s opened. Inspect the label and vintage to make sure it is in fact what you ordered. Sometimes the restaurant will be out of the specified vintage and will bring you a different one. Now is the time for you to decide whether this is acceptable.

After opening, the server will present you the cork. Simply make sure it is not dried out and cracked. Note: Sometimes white wines will form white crystals on the cork. This is normal and is not a sign of a fault.

Then the server will pour a small amount in your glass. Check the aroma to make sure there are no strong, offensive odors that you know shouldn't be there (such as vinegar and rotten eggs). If unsure, smell again or ask your server.

Now taste the wine. If trying a new type of wine that you are not familiar with, I would be extra cautious and ask the waiter his opinion before sending the wine back.

Once you have tasted the wine and feel it is not faulty, a simple nod or a “it’s fine” will inform the server to start filling the glasses. The server will now decant the wine if necessary and then fill the guest’s glasses first and finish with your glass.

3. Maintaining Your Glass

In most fine dining establishments, the server will refill your glasses as needed. If your glass runs empty, feel free to pour more yourself.

Pour only to the lower one-third the glass. This lets air in and leaves you room to swirl— both of which enhance the enjoyment of your wines.

Ordering wine doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Just remember these basics. Once you’ve gone through the motions of choosing and accepting the bottle with a sniff and a sip, you’ll be a real wine ordering pro.