So you’ve finally reached the point in your career where ordering wine at a restaurant is a legitimate option; congratulations on finally having made it into the ranks of the upper middle class. A life of obscurity and short sleeve shirts awaits you, but at least the refreshments are a little better this side of the tax bracket. If you find yourself at a sophisticated office lunch or at a romantic dinner with a lovely lady, ordering a bottle of wine might seem like the right thing to do, and it can be a daunting task figuring out where to begin.
Choosing the correct wine in a restaurant is an art form, and like all other art forms, it is your duty as gentleman to pretend to understand it while in the presence of polite company. Long wine lists with names you’ve never heard can be extremely intimidating, but there are a few simple steps to help you arrive at a decision, and maybe even come off as cultured along the way. There are numerous factors that one must consider when ordering the right bottle of wine, and fortunately enough they’re mostly pretty straightforward. Whether you’re on a date, at an important business meeting, or it’s just a sad Tuesday afternoon, we’re certain these will be of some use.
Nothing gives away the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing faster than any obvious signs of hesitation. A good place to start is by asking your date if she’d prefer a red or white wine. If she’s like most women, she’d like a white, and you’re in luck because the perfect red wine is a lot harder to pick. You’re only human, and no one man can know all there is to know about wine, so there is no shame in asking your server or the resident sommelier for some direction. You can still seem confident and in charge by asking your server smart and relevant questions, while subtly dropping esoteric wine jargon. e.g. My friend and I would like a medium bodied-white, does this Riesling show much vintage-variation?
Pick Your Budget
There’s no greater sign of new money than someone who orders a ridiculously expensive bottle of champagne just because they can. That’s not classy, it’s just decadent. It can be tempting to order an expensive wine, especially if you want to impress your lady friend and you have no idea what you’re doing. But with wine, expensive doesn’t always mean better, and even a moderately priced wine can be pretty good. There is really no limit to how much you can spend on a good bottle of wine, so be sure to ask your server about a couple of wines on the list so that your he better understands your budget.
Pair With Your Food
For most people, the choice of food supersedes their taste in wine, so it makes more sense to choose your wine based on your companion’s choice of food. As a rule of thumb, red wine goes well with red meat, poultry and heavily flavoured food while white or sparkling wine pairs better with spicy and lighter foods like seafood and pastas. Explaining this to your companion in a factual but condescending way will go a long way in maintaining the illusion that you know what you’re doing. It will, however, make you unlikable as a human being.
When it comes to ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant, you could go one of two ways; pick something you’ve tried before and are confident you and your date will like, or go rogue and try something completely new. Women long for adventure, and although ordering a wine you haven’t tried before isn’t the most heroic thing you can do for a woman, your passion to learn about and try new things will do more in your favour than any bravado. Just pick a wine on the list that you’ve never tried before and say something important, like; “I think this Pinot Grigio will pair beautifully with your Grilled Halibut”.
Survive The Wine Presentation
After you’ve finally ordered your wine, your server will bring the bottle to your table and present you with the cork before pouring you a little. This whole charade is designed to check whether the wine in the bottle is spoiled or not. If the cork smells too musty & sour or is wet and crumbly all through, you should ask for another bottle. If the cork is just slightly damp and aromatic from the wine, you’re good to go. All that’s left to do now is nod at your server, and he’ll fill your partner’s glass and then top up yours. Success.
When it comes to knowing a lot about wine, there is a fine line between seeming cultured and coming off as a wine snob, by far the most reviled people on the face of this planet. While it can be tempting to put all of your newfound knowledge to the test at once, take it slow. The only way you’ll learn more about wine is by asking questions and trying wines of new varieties from different regions. If that sounds like a lot of work to you, you could always just relax and get a beer instead.
This article was first published in our column for Urbane, a magazine for the “evolved man”.