You invited your girlfriend’s parents, or your boss, or old classmate to be your guest at a fine restaurant. How do you impress when ordering wine?
• If restaurant has a sommelier, this is easy. Sommeliers are paid to know their cellar and the kitchen. Ask for directions, even if you are a male. Tell what food you’re considering and your wine price range. Tip tip [cq]: Part of your meal tip goes to the sommelier; you do not tip them separately. It is good form, however, to offer them a pour, either as a taste during the meal or by leaving some in the bottle.
When there is no sommelier:
• Safe: Bubbly to start. Sauvignon blanc with fish or any lighter meat; New Zealand sauv blanc for affordable quality, or show off by ordering Pouilly Fumé or Sancerre (French names for same stuff). Cabernet sauvignon with red meat.
• If there are four people and you start with bubbly (highly recommended), buy a bottle, not by-the-glass. Restaurant secret: they often “short pour” sparkling—giving you about 4.5 ounces per glass. That’s 18 ounces for four glasses. For maybe a dollar more, you get the entire 25-ounce bottle, plus all the panoply of the cork popping, the towel, and the ice bucket. Bottle: no brainer.
• Never order least expensive wine. Not only will this not impress (likely the opposite), the cheapest wine on restaurant list seldom is any good, usually is over-priced.
• If ordering from less expensive section of the list, order younger rather than older, especially with white wines. Those wines were made to drink young.
• Avoid high alcohol. Higher the alcohol, less well the wine plays with food. Target for food: around 12 percent.
• Almost never order house wine. In many restaurants, house wine is bottom-shelf, barely acceptable stuff. Sometimes, however, an owner who loves wine may pour winners. See the next suggestion.
• If the dinner is important, visit ahead of time and find out how restaurant rolls and pours. Investigate wine list using your smart phone. Tip generously. Tell them you will be back. Perhaps they will recognize you and welcome you by name next time. A really nice touch when you are trying to impress future in-laws, bosses, or former classmates. Nice even if you go there alone.