You choose the wine...

How to survive an intimidating restaurant experience.

November 23, 2010 09:56
4 minute read.
Wine bottles

Wine bottles 521. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I know many confident people, whether company directors or captains of industry, who become utterly rudderless when having to choose wine in a restaurant in front of their guests.

It is true, a large wine list and impatient sommelier (wine waiter) can be very intimidating. To take the fear out of ordering wine, this is a short guide to being comfortable with the wine service procedure.

Firstly, you will be presented with a wine list. Don’t panic – look for the price you wish to pay, the wine style you like or a brand that you know. Never be afraid to choose what you like, whether it is deemed correct or not. Alternatively, if you want advice, don’t hesitate to ask.

If you don’t want a full bottle (750 ml.), which will give you 5 to 6 glasses, remember you have the option of choosing wine by the glass or half bottles.

Remember, waiters may appear very knowledgeable, but it is quite likely that they don’t know any more than you do. Good food goes with good wine, whatever the experts tell you, and no one can tell you that what you like is incorrect! So don’t let a snooty wine waiter or a large wine list faze you.

So, you order a wine. The waiter will return and show you the bottle you ordered before opening it. Check it is the one you chose and the right vintage (year). If it is a white wine or rosé, it is worth noting if it is chilled.

The waiter will then open it – ideally in front of you – and will then ask “Do you want to taste the wine?” This is not to see if you like the wine, but more to check if it is bad or “off.”

If you don’t want to taste, then just ask the waiter to go ahead and pour for everyone. If you do, the waiter will pour a small amount in your glass. All you have to do is pick up the glass by its stem; agitate the wine slightly by moving the glass clockwise once.

This can also be done whilst the glass is on the table to save unnecessary spillages! Put your nose in the glass and take a short, sharp sniff to smell the aroma and bouquet, then sip a tiny amount, swirling it around your mouth before swallowing.

The wine should smell and taste clean and fresh.

Afterwards, nod to the waiter and say it is OK. He will then pour, ideally no more than half a glass, for everyone, and as the host, you will have your glass filled last of all.

In a quality restaurant, the waiter may also show you the cork. This is not for sniffing but more as a guide to how the wine has been stored. So you can pick it up look at it wisely, before putting it down or handing it back to the waiter. By the way, a “corky” wine is not one where the cork smells unpleasant or where there are bits of cork floating in the wine. This is a term used to describe wines in which a musty smell masks the fruit.

If you are worried about the effect of drinking wine, always have plenty of water to drink. This will prevent you becoming too dry and fuzzy headed.

mevushal wine is one that has been flash pasteurized so that it remains kosher, even when served by someone not Jewish. Most of the finest quality kosher wines are not mevushal, so if quality is important to you, and you want the best, either ask the mashgiah to open the wine for you or ask for a bottle opener so you can open it yourself.

Many beginners regard dry white wines as too acidic and red wines as too astringent and heavy. Bear in mind though, that the wines are likely to seem entirely different when drunk alongside food.

Most restaurants will allow you to bring your own bottle for a small corkage fee, but it is important to check beforehand. It is normally customary not to bring a wine that is featured on the wine list.

The main message is that wine is something to be enjoyed and it is shown at its best with food. Any meal experience will be enhanced by a glass of wine. You don’t have to be a wine expert to open a bottle and enjoy it.

Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine both in Israeli and international publications.

Related Content

Sarah Silverman
August 26, 2014
Jewish women take home gold at 2014 Emmys


Cookie Settings