Ordering wine in a restaurant can be an intimidating experience for many people, who might worry about their lack of wine knowledge or the etiquette for ordering. Thankfully, restaurants have expert staff who want to provide the best experience possible to diners.
Many upscale restaurants employ a sommelier: someone who is a wine expert and uses his or her expertise to purchase wine for the restaurant and share recommendations with customers. Sommeliers are passionate about wine and enjoy helping others make good decisions. They are almost always respectful of price considerations — asking the sommelier for a recommendation on a bottle between $30-50 is perfectly acceptable, and they will recommend a good choice within that price range.
If the restaurant does not employ a sommelier, the waiter will often have rehearsed recommendations for wine pairing with certain meals or preferences. Do not be afraid to ask the waiter for a recommendation based on your meal — even wine enthusiasts cannot be experts about every single offering on a wine list. The staff are paid to help you!
After ordering wine, the waiter will bring out the bottle and present the label to whomever ordered. Although it is almost always just a formality, inspect the label to make sure it is the vintage ordered. Next, the waiter will uncork the wine and pour a small amount into the glass. Upscale restaurants may offer the cork for sniffing, just to ensure the wine has not gone bad — look for vinegar scents that may indicate the wine has gone bad. Finally, swirl the wine around in the glass, sniff it, and take a sip. Again, if there is a vinegar taste, the wine may have gone bad.
If the wine is acceptable, the waiter will begin pouring each diner’s glass before ending with a refill of the ordering person’s glass. Some inexperienced waiters will try to overfill the glass — a good pour of wine should take up no more than half the glass. Do not hesitate to ask a waiter to pour less if the pours are too large.
Once the waiter leaves the wine on the table, the rest is easy: drink and enjoy the wine as you wish!