Ask the Pros for Help
Ordering wine in a restaurant can, and should be, a painless experience. There are only a few ideas to consider when undertaking this often-uncomfortable situation. A little knowledge of the do’s and don’ts will go a long way towards alleviating any anxiety with the ritual of wine service. As with any dining experience, a sense of confidence in the service and food provided is necessary for a truly relaxed, enjoyable occasion. You should feel assured that your dietary needs, personal tastes, health, and financial security are at the forefront of the establishments’ considerations.
Let’s say you are in a given restaurant for the first time, and are familiar with many of the wines offered. Having chosen your entree, you select a nice wine to accompany your meal. Now is the time to start ascertaining the level of service you are about to receive:
- The wine should be served timely.
- The wine should be served with the proper glassware.
- The wine should be served at the correct temperature.
- The wine should be served in an appropriate manner.
Pointed questions regarding your selection can help determine the experience level of your server. To my mind, a great pleasure of dining out is resting some decisions upon the expertise of the professionals who handle their particular dining elements day in and day out.
- Feel free to ask for help.
- Describe what characteristics you enjoy in a wine rather than selecting by region, vineyard or variety.
With a given level of confidence in the staff, you will be able to experience new tastes with the assurance of a great dining experience.
Ready to Order?
It is rarely a good idea to order wine without looking at the list or
asking the price. Many are the times a guest has said, “I love
Mouton-Rothschild, do you have a bottle?” only to choke when they see an
eight hundred dollar price tag. Know what you are getting into, and,
while affordability should never be your only consideration, don’t be
afraid to ask the price of anything.
Should you ask your server or sommelier: “What is your favorite wine?” You may get this response: “Well, what am I eating? What time of year is it? The occasion? Who am I with?” Most experienced wine connoisseurs will have many personal favorites. Instead, ask what they may suggest with the meal you have selected, given the tastes you prefer.
Wine Presentation and Service
Wine service should proceed in a similar manner every time you order:
The Right Wine?
First, the wine bottle will be presented to you un-opened. At this point you are checking to make sure the wine is what you selected:
- Correct grape,
- Correct vineyard,
- Correct vintage.
The Cork Check
Next, the bottle will be opened and the cork presented to whomever chose the wine. There is no need to smell the cork. With the cork you are looking for one thing: integrity. The following signs are not conclusive, but would beg a little closer scrutiny of the wine:
- The cork is soft and spongy
- The cork crumbles upon removal
- There is a pronounced stripe running longitudinally along the cork
If any of these signs are present, there is a higher probability the wine will be faulted.
Next, a small portion of wine will be poured for the person who ordered it (for our purposes, the host.) This wine is not poured as a taste test, but rather, as an opportunity for the guest to discern any faults in the wine: You should look at:
- See the color – is it what you expected?
- Smell it – Anything moldy? – Vinegary? – Does the wine smell bruised or rotten?
- Taste it – Does it taste the way it smells?
An experienced diner never languishes over the discernment of wine – a connoisseur will take seconds to determine if a particular bottle is good.
Given that the host chose the wine and the wine is un-faulted, the bottle should not be rejected. All sommeliers have entertained a guest who is intent upon opening six bottles of wine only to decide which they like best - not the purpose of the tasting. An exception to this rule: If a guest states the characteristics of the wines he or she enjoys, and the server makes a recommendation, and the wine does not fit the preferred wine profile, then it is okay to send the wine back, even if it is sound.
Given a positive response to the initial inspection, the server will start to pour your wine.
- Wine service starts with the lady to the left of the host.
- Service proceeds clockwise to the rest of the women.
- Lastly, service continues clockwise for the men, serving the host – male or female – last.
An exception to this rule: If the table has more than eight guests, wine service proceeds clockwise, from the hosts left, not differentiating for male or female, serving the host last.
Most important – dining in general, and wine specifically - should be enjoyed. These are singular moments of your life’s experience and are irreplaceable. Anything detracting from your pleasure should not be repeated, and every great meal accorded the respect of a once in a lifetime experience. Salute!
- Trackback Link
- Post has no trackbacks.