Up until just a couple of years ago, the prospect of having to choose wine in a restaurant used to fill me with dread. I knew that I like a cold and crisp glass of dry white. But I had no idea what was supposed to be paired with what or how to select a really great bottle, and so most of the time, I’d just let my dining partner make the decision.
Thankfully though, I picked up some fantastic tips from friends, bloggers, and experts who know what they’re talking about, and I can now choose wine in a restaurant without any trouble. Take these onboard, and you’ll be making your selection like a pro in no time at all…
Set a budget, and stick to it
It’s easy to get carried away sometimes when you’re in the surroundings of a restaurant and the food promises to be absolutely amazing. Before you even begin to browse the wine list though, decide how much you’re willing to pay. This will instantly help you to narrow down your options, and it’ll ensure that you aren’t left feeling regretful afterwards.
Don’t be scared to ask for help from the waiter
Any restaurant that’s worth its salt will make sure that they train their waiting staff to be able to confidently and knowledgeably answer questions about the menu – and that includes the wine list. Tell them what your usual favourites are, and what dishes you’re planning to order. You’re paying for their service, so do speak up if there’s anything at all that you’re not sure about. Often, you’ll find that they’ll be delighted to be able to advise you, and will really appreciate your interest in what they have to offer.
Consider how your choice will complement the food
A good wine choice will make every mouthful of your meal taste more delicious. Generally speaking, a light and citrusy white will work well with fish, chicken, and salads. If you’re going for a rich stew or casserole, then a red will be a better bet. For more advice, check out Decanter’s 10 rules of food and wine pairing. Remember too that sweet wines can be a fantastic way to round off a meal, and they can be served with or without dessert. For me, there’s no combination quite like a slice of blackberry cheesecake with a small glass of sweet white wine!
Remember that there’s no shame in choosing the house
Some wine snobs will have you believe that ordering the house wine is to be avoided at all costs. Sure, it’s not going to be anything overly innovative or exciting. But it definitely will be drinkable and enjoyable. If you fancy experimenting, then get stuck into the list and choose something that’s going to be memorable. But if you’re happy with just a dry white, you can usually not go too far wrong with the house option.
If you follow these guidelines, it doesn’t have to be hard or confusing to choose wine in a restaurant. Why not give these tips a try next time you go out for dinner?