How to Order Wine

Don’t be intimidated by the wine list. Bring the fun back into fine dining with these idiot-proof wine ordering tips.  

Simplify the Selection Process

If you know what wine you want, order it. If you don’t, tell the waiter or wine steward how much you want to spend and have him or her recommend one. Then accept the recommendation gladly, knowing your chances of enjoying the wine are better than if you’d taken a shot in the dark.

Just Point

Take advantage of the wine list-not just to find a bottle to order but to point to your choice if you can’t pronounce the name. The waiter will nod knowingly and say the name perfectly. And then you still won’t be able to pronounce it, but it doesn’t matter. Your only job is to drink it.

Verify the Wine

If you chose your wine off the list, check the label when the bottle comes to make sure you’re getting what you ordered. That includes the year. A 2001 might cost a lot more than the 2003 you asked for, but if you drink it you can be charged the higher price.

Cork Matters

When the waiter pulls out the cork and then puts it down in front of you, stick it in your ear and say, “Sounds good.” Are we kidding? Yes. But it’s no more ridiculous than the cork-smelling routine that some folks feel obliged to perform. All you need to do is make sure the cork’s not moldy or decaying. If it’s moist on the bottom, that’s good; it means the wine was stored correctly. Otherwise forget about it. It’s just a cork.

Sipping Procedure

If you ordered, you’ll get a splash in your glass to taste. Relax. It’s not a test. If the wine’s gone bad, you’ll know. First look: You don’t want brown or cloudy. Then smell and taste. Remember, you’re not judging at a wine tasting. You just want to be sure the wine hasn’t oxidized (turned vinegary) and the cork didn’t go bad (musty taste). If it’s bad, don’t be shy about telling the server. Suggest the server taste it to confirm. Trust us, he or she won’t take it personally.

Closing Ceremony

Tell the server out loud that the wine’s OK. Something like, “Nice wine, thanks for the suggestion” will work fine. They appreciate the verbal confirmation, because it’s like a contract that you agree to pay for the bottle.