How To Successfully Order Wine At A Restaurant

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Ordering Wine at a RestaurantWhenever you go out to dinner at a great new restaurant, you always want to impress your date, family and/or friends by ordering a nice bottle of wine. Although it may seem difficult, with a few simple tips, you can successfully order wine at a restaurant without looking like you are an amateur. After all, everyone wants to feel confident and relaxed and casual in social environments, it’s only natural.

There are a few things you need to sit back and think about before you dive in and attempt to make a wine selection. You first need to consider the atmosphere, the reason you are there, who you are with, and if you are celebrating some sort of special occasion or holiday. Every situation is different and by making the conscious distinction up front, you will not only save time when ordering, but money as well.


For example, you definitely do not want to order the same type of wine for a date as you would order for a fun night out with your friends. The two occasions call for two totally different types of wines. When on a date, you are looking to impress so your selection will probably be a more expensive one as opposed to when out on the town with friends, where you are looking for a more inexpensive wine option.

For most people, looking through the wine list can be very scary and quite intimidating. However, the best way to approach this is by keeping your cool and casually browsing through the list. One thing to note here is that almost every restaurant offers a “house wine” and it is usually very good and more affordable than the rest of the wines on the list. This will probably be the best option on most occasions so don’t feel embarrassed to go ahead and order it, especially if you are having a casual dinner or a business meeting. To be honest, I typically order the house wine and have never really had a bad one.

Wine List

As for the other wines on the list, although they can be a bit extensive and confusing, with some patience you’ll make it through like a pro. To simplify things, some people order based on price and wine color. Let’s say you choose to have a nice bottle of red wine with dinner and you need something a little more affordable. You could just opt for the most inexpensive red wine on the list. Or if you wanted to make things more interesting, you could choose one of the more unknown wines on the list at a price that is still within your budget. This way your choice would be unique, delicious and affordable.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when you order wine at a restaurant:

  • Ask to taste test the wine before you order the bottle. Most restaurants are accommodating and if there are other’s at the table with you, they can all help you in choosing the wine that they prefer. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Ask the sommelier for suggestions, they are there to help you.
  • Have an idea in advance on what you plan to order and what price range you feel comfortable with.
  • Tell the sommelier what you have in mind and your price range. Are you looking for a fruity taste? Sweet or dry? Within the $50 range? Make sure you voice this calmly and quietly. No need for everyone at the table to know how much you are willing to pay. However, it’s important to convey this to the sommelier, otherwise you will end up having to pay for a very expensive bottle of wine.
  • Use words like fruity, bright, citrus, chewy, smoky and creamy. This will give the sommelier an idea of what your specifically looking for in a wine and they will be able to offer specific options.
  • You can always play it safe and ask the wait staff for any suggestions and choose one of the options they offer. This is usually the easiest and safest way to order wine at a restaurant.
  • If you know what the others plan to order, for example a steak dish or a cheese dish, you can focus on particular wines that will pair nicely with their entrée. You can also ask the waiter or sommelier for their pairing recommendations.


Pouring WineOnce you order the wine, the wait staff or sommelier will usually present the bottle to you before they open it. After opening the bottle they will show you and/or hand you the cork from the bottle. At this point you want to observe the side of the cork that was closest to the wine and make sure the cork is not cracked. The server will then poor a small amount in a glass for you to taste. First, swirl the wine a little bit and smell it casually. You want to make sure there are no strong odors coming from the wine. Then taste the wine, a small sip will do. Make sure the wine is to your satisfactory. It’s actually quite rare for someone to send back a bottle of wine after the smell is to their satisfaction.

Then comes the best part of all, drink up and enjoy your wine selection. But most of all, enjoy your time and experience. The reality is that the more you practice and get used to ordering wine at a restaurant, the more confident and at ease you will become.

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