Choosing a bottle of wine from a restaurant menu is a great skill to have in your repertoire. Whether you’re a wine drinker yourself, or not, it’s a fantastic trick to pull out your sleeve at any moment. Looking to impress on a special occasion? Knowing how to choose a bottle of wine from a menu will certainly do that. In this article, I’ll be taking you through how to look at a wine list and choose a bottle of wine for your table in any restaurant. Come along to learn the basics of how to order wine in a restaurant.
What is the Wine Basics series?
Wine Basics is a blog series on Female Original where I (Faye, the Founder) take you through my guide to understanding wine. For background, I’m not a wine expert – let’s get that out the way. I’m a 20-something writer and wine-lover slowly learning more and more about wine. I have two wine qualifications through WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and am simply aiming to make enjoying wine accessible to as many wine lovers (and soon-to-be wine lovers) as possible. Through Wine Basics, I’ll take you through my tips and advice on getting started with wine; from learning how to taste wine, to finding a bottle of wine that you’ll actually enjoy. So come along and learn more about wine alongside me. It’s going to be fun, I promise.
By the glass or by the bottle?
For me, the first question to ask yourself when choosing wine at a restaurant is whether you’re looking to order by the glass or by the bottle. Often, wine lists will have a selection of wines that are sold either by the glass or by the bottle, with certain wines being available in both formats. The more expensive and less frequently ordered wines are usually only available by the bottle. Whereas, cheaper and more popular wines are more likely to be available by the glass. If you and your guests are interested in drinking the same wine then opting for a bottle not only usually works out cheaper, but allows you to try wines that aren’t offered by the glass.
I’d say that if you’re thinking of having more than one glass of wine and are dining with guests who are doing the same then it’s better to order a bottle and split it. However, if you and your guests have completely different tastes in wine, or are ordering meals with entirely different flavours, then ordering by the glass might be better.
Consider what you (and your table) are eating
Following on from my previous point, I very important part of ordering wine in a restaurant is considering what you’ll be eating alongside it. When taking a look at a restaurant wine list, be sure to have an idea of what you might be ordering to eat with it. If you’re choosing a bottle of wine for a table, remember you aren’t the only person drinking it! Whilst one bottle might be the ideal pairing for your meal, it may not work so well alongside your guests’ picks. Going for a spicy curry? You might want to avoid oaked, peppery reds – they’ll only enhance the spice in your food. Instead, try opting for a medium-bodied white wine, like a Gewurztraminer. Unless you’re all about fiery spicy flavours, of course. Each to their own – I’m not going to stop you!
This particular tip is more for those of you looking to order wine whilst travelling abroad. Just as you’d travel to try the local cuisine, you can do the same for the wine too. For example, next time you’re in Spain working your way through the tapas selection and looking for a wine to pair them with, consider choosing a Spanish wine like an Albariño or a Rioja. And the same goes for whatever country or region you visit. Bonus points if you order a wine that’s not only from the country you’re visiting but the region too.
Try something new
Everyone has their favourite wines, but sometimes it’s good to branch out and try something new. Some of my favourite experiences with wine at restaurants have come from ordering something entirely new to me, including Lebanese wine and wine from the Republic of North Macedonia (both of which I tried at Maray in Liverpool, a favourite restaurant of mine!). My point is, if I hadn’t decided to try something new I’d end up sticking to my usual French Viognier or Pinot Noir. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I would’ve loved them too but sometimes it’s good to go rogue. If you see a particularly intriguing wine on the menu, don’t be afraid to give it a go – you might just find your new favourite bottle.
When in doubt, just ask!
Look, at the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with asking your waiter or, if the restaurant has one, your sommelier for advice. They’re there to help you out and offer assistance in any way that they can. In fact, they’ll probably jump at the chance to talk you through their wine list and will happily answer any questions you have. If you know what sort of wine you like, start by sharing that with them and ask them to suggest something alongside those lines. Or, if you fancy trying something new (remember my last point!) ask them to recommend a bottle that you haven’t tried before.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling more confident about choosing a bottle of wine from a menu the next time you visit a restaurant. But, in case you need a refresher, here are three key things to keep in mind:
- Order for everyone, not just for you. Just because a specific wine suits your tastes, doesn’t mean everyone on your table will like it too. If you’re going for a bottle, make sure to take the time to choose one that suits everyone’s tastes. If you all want something different, go by the glass.
- There’s no harm in asking for advice. Sometimes no matter how prepared you are, wine lists can be confusing! If you aren’t feeling confident in your choice then just ask your waiter/sommelier for tips – they’re happy to help!
- Explore and try local. Tasting wine is fun, don’t forget that! Choosing the perfect wine creates an experience so try and make it different each time. Try a local Greek, Lebanese or Macedonian wine and enjoy a new experience.
And remember, when you do choose a wine and the waiter brings it over to you to try, it’s to check there aren’t any faults in the wine..not to check if you like it or not.