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Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant

July 07, 2024 Tags: 0 comments
Restaurants’ wine lists vary from very short to hundreds of pages, making the task of choosing a wine sometime challenging, a challenge that, whenever I'm out with friends or family, usually falls on me - to find a wine that will please everyone. I may be a wine expert but certainly don’t know every wine or region.

The first thing I do when looking at a wine list is to see if the producers are listed. A wine list that doesn't mention the producers is usually a red flag. I also tend to avoid ordering wines from famous regions unless I'm familiar with the wine or winery or trust the sommelier or waiter and I'm especially wary of wines from famous regions that are priced suspiciously low. Whether it's a Barolo or a Brunello di Montalcino, these wines are expensive for a reason - the winemaking process is more costly.

Normally, I do not consider the house wine, unfortunately they do not have a good reputation, too often are selected because of their prices. However, the house wine should be the most versatile wine, a wine that can pair almost any dish on the menu, a wine that if there are too many guests to please and food to accompany, should do the job.

The house wine should be a source of pride for the restaurant, I always say the house wine is the restaurant’s business card and should be a great house wine, simple, not too complex or complicated, but good. Restaurants should be judged on their house wine, a sommelier or restaurant that chooses a good house wine, not only demonstrates that they take their wine seriously but also their food, it may be simple, but it will be made with good quality ingredients. And if the house wine is good, you can feel confident and pick any wine on the list based on your budget.

If I run out of options and am considering the house wine, and the wine list simply states “house wine” or do not mention the producer, I will ask for a taste, the sommelier or waiter should not mind. I also ignore the popular opinion that says to choose the second wine from the top, the second cheapest, unless I am familiar with the wine or producer. The second wine from the top is selected using the same criteria as the other wines.

I’ve mentioned before that the temperature is crucial when tasting wine. It needs to be served at the right temperature to reveal its true qualities or flaws. If the wine is too cold, let it warm up in the glass.
Wine lists are normally curated by sommeliers based on the restaurant’s status, cuisine and their personal preferences, so if I read an unfamiliar name or region, my guess is that the sommelier really like the wine and not only I am fairly confident that the wine will be good but that will also be sensibly priced to encourage patrons to give it a chance.

So next time it is your turn to choose the wine, stay away from the crowd pleaser and choose something you never heard of before - it may be your best wine yet.
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