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The Cliff House BlogHow to Order Wine in a Restaurant


How to Order Wine in a Restaurant

01 May, 2014

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&rsquo, considerations.
Let&rsquo,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'' &ldquo,I love Mouton-Rothschild'' do you have a bottle?&rdquo, 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&rsquo,t be afraid to ask the price of anything.
Should you ask your server or sommelier: &ldquo,What is your favorite wine?&rdquo, , You may get this response: &ldquo,Well'' what am I eating? , What time of year is it? , The occasion? , , Who am I with?&rdquo, , 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.

The Discernment

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 &ndash, is it what you expected? ,
  • Smell it &ndash, Anything moldy? &ndash, Vinegary? &ndash, Does the wine smell bruised or rotten? ,
  • Taste it &ndash, Does it taste the way it smells? ,

An experienced diner never languishes over the discernment of wine &ndash, 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.

The Service

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 &ndash, male or female &ndash, 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 &ndash, dining in general' and wine specifically - should be enjoyed. , These are singular moments of your life&rsquo,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!