Welcome to The Real World: Ordering Wine Without Fear

By Bruce Matsunaga

"good wine is a good familiar creature" -Shakespeare

This is a tutorial designed to aid anyone who wants to overcome their fear of ordering wine at a restaurant or just wants to know more about the ritual etiquette that takes place when ordering wine. The learner will develop a knowledge of wine ordering etiquette, be able to use the correct pronunciation of different wines and common terms, and come to an understanding of what wine to choose. You may proceed in a linear fashion or jump to the section you are interested in. Cheers!

The Ritual Dance part 1: Choosing to dance.Image of Restaurant

So you have decided to order wine at a restaurant, and most good restaurants will have some sort of list to choose from. This is like your list of possible dances, but often reading the wine list is like deciphering Greek scrolls, but a good list will be as precise as possible to avoid ambiguities. Ordering wine should not be any more difficult or mysterious than ordering your food. At a bare minimum, a list should tell you the producer, the appellation, the type of wine, and the vintage. If it doesn't, ask your waiter or Sommelier (Soh-mell-yay) to clarify.

Many people like to start with a lighter or even a sparkling wine with appetizers and then move to a more robust wine with their entrees, so whenever possible try and think ahead as to what your next move might be. If you don't want to commit to a whole bottle, most restaurants sell half bottles (350ml) or sell wine by the glass. One good trick is to ask the Sommelier (wine steward) if there are any wines that are not on the list, often a restaurant will start to run out of a wine and take it off the list. Often, these wines will be sold for a discount. Finally, many restaurants have a house wine that can be purchased by the glass at a reasonable price, if you don't see it on the wine list just ask your Sommelier.

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