Restaurant Wine Drinking
This column shares insight into the often mysterious rituals of wine drinking. If you’re like most people, you only drink wine socially (side note: we are determined to convert you to wine lovers like us who will use any occasion to crack open a bottle—carpe diem!). If you’ve ever been asked to select wine for your table and your stomach has turned to knots, have no fear—two blondes are here to help!
Knowing that the simple rule of thumb (white with poultry or fish, red with beef or pork) will only get you so far, here’s the best advice: go with what you know or ask for a recommendation. Unless wine is your full time job, chances are you are not intimately familiar with the wines on the menu. There is no shame in asking an expert for advice. In fact, you can actually do it in a way that makes you look quite sophisticated (I am looking for a red wine that all of us will enjoy with our entrée selections. Do you have any personal favorites to recommend?) A good sommelier (the restaurant’s on-site wine expert) or server will point out a few considerations in different price ranges.
The server will return and present the bottle to you. Check the wine maker’s name, grape (merlot versus chardonnay), and vintage (year the grapes were picked) to ensure it is the bottle you selected. Why? They are human and every once in a while, they make a mistake when fetching the bottle.
The server will uncork the bottle and place the cork in front of you. Look to see if the cork has mold or is shriveled which indicates the wine was not store properly or has been contaminated, which is referred to as a “corked” bottle. After years of being considered a meaningless and silly practice, smelling the cork is now back in favor. However, unless you know what corked wine smells like, simply leave the cork on the table without sniffing it.
Next the server will pour a small sip into your glass to sample the wine. This is to determine the wine is acceptable. Pick up the glass by the stem (you will warm the wine if you hold it by the cup of the glass), examine the color (we’ll go into color and taste detail in an upcoming issue), stick your nose into the glass and smell it, swirl it to infuse oxygen into the wine, now taste it.
It is NOT acceptable to send back the wine if it does not meet your personal preference (you prefer only cabs, yet you ordered a pinot and this one tastes like a pinot). The only time you should send back wine is if it is corked and undrinkable. Let the server know the wine is acceptable and enjoy!
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