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How to order wine like a pro when you're in a restaurant

Ever feel put on the spot when someone shoves the wine list into your hands?

11 Sep 2017

(image: iStock)

There’s nothing better than a long lunch with friends, or an intimate dinner with a loved one. We all enjoy the spoil of some time out; eating good food and of course, drinking good wine. But then, there’s the choice of which wine to order. 

We understand that it’s a nerve-wracking moment – you are at the restaurant, and the waiter hands you a leather-bound wine list, and even for the seasoned wine drinker, the pages and pages of wine choices can be daunting.  

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Marco Ventrella, KWV Viticulturist advises, “Go for wine that you like and enjoy. You can’t go wrong with that. If you don’t know any of the wines, try telling your server what wine you normally like and this will help you make the right recommendation.” 
1. Enjoy the moment
Whether it’s lunch or dinner there’s no rush. This is your time to unwind, and to enjoy the moment. Remember, there are no steadfast rules, and these tips are just here to guide you. The only important factor is that you have a good time. 
2. What’s for Dinner 
Certain wines go with specific foods better than others. A good starting point is to decide on what you will be eating before ordering the wine – this is because some foods can enhance a flavour. For example, salt will exaggerate a foods bitterness. If you’re eating seafood, then a Chenin Blanc would be a perfect match; or if you are in the mood for a good piece of steak, then your best call would be to go for a Shiraz. 
Once you know what you will be eating, then simply ask the waiter of sommelier what they recommend would pair best with your meal of choice. 
3. Starting out with drinks?
If your preference is to rather enjoy a few drinks before deciding on what to eat, then that’s okay. If you are with a big party, then red and white blends tend to be a popular drink of choice, and they pair well with most foods because of the blend of varietals.  Or, perhaps you are in the mood for bubbles, and then you’re in luck, because unless you will be ordering a steak or a sweet dessert, it will almost always be compatible. 
4. Glass vs. bottle 
You’ve decided what to drink, but now it’s the glass vs. bottle conundrum. If you are in a group, and you have all decided on the same wine choice, then go for a bottle, as this will end up being less of an expense. If you are looking for variety, or if the party can’t decide which wine to choose then perhaps opt for a glass, and take it from there. 
5. Take your own!
An easy way to remove the stress out of a dining experience is to take a bottle of your favourite wine, but call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if you can do so -  and confirm the corkage fee. 

ALSO READ: 10 Tips for BYO in restaurants 

Once you have ordered wine, the fun can begin – so sit back, relax, and savour the moment.

ALSO READ: A lesson in buying wine: what you should know

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