Some wine lists in restaurants are longer than War and Peace, while others feature minimal choices which can leave you equally as baffled. Unless you’re a wine connoisseur, choosing the right one can often seem a tricky task, especially if you and the other dinner guests have selected different meals, possess different budgets and have differing tastes in wine. At the very worst, having to select the wine can put you under unnecessary pressure and spoil what should really be a pleasurable occasion. 

So just how do you go about choosing wine in a restaurant? 

  • Firstly, take your time to make sense of the wine menu

Try and work out how the listings are arranged so that making your selection is simplified. Are they listed by color, country, region or type? Once you’ve established that, you can begin to narrow down your options. 

  • Determine which wine(s) the other diners would prefer

Asking the others at your table if they prefer white wine or red, is a good place to start, and if you have a mix of those who like white, red or even rose, then you can select a bottle of each depending on how many will be drinking it and how thirsty they might be! They may also have a preference, in which case you can look for it on the list and order it if it’s there. Failing that, asking the waiter or sommelier (wine expert) for their recommendations would be sensible, too. Having an idea of your budget will help narrow down the options as well. 

A small example of some popular wines found in restaurants is listed below: 

Red wines (easy drinking and inexpensive)  - Beaujolais

                      (bold)                                            - California red Zinfandel

                      (light)                                            - Pinot noir

White wines (dry)                                              - Soave, Pinot Grigio

                 (full bodied)                                      - Chardonnay

                 (medium dry)                                   - Chenin Blanc or Riesling

  • Take your food choices into account

Even a novice wine drinker will know that there are certain foods that pair well with certain wines, and even if you don’t know, doubtless one of the other diners would appreciate that fact. The waiter or sommelier would certainly be able to show you which wines would complement the types of foods you have chosen. For example, spicy foods can be paired with sweet white wines like Riesling, while woodier wines with a little more depth of flavor, such as Chardonnay, would suit creamy or seasoned dishes. A strong red wine like a Chianti, Bordeaux or Burgundy complements a juicy steak. 

  • Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll be asked to taste it

When the waiter brings the chosen wine(s) to the table, as the selector, you will be asked to taste it and this is more about ensuring that the wine has not been ‘corked’ and tastes as it should. You will soon know if the wine is ‘off’, and if it is and the waiter or manager concurs, then of course you will not be charged for it but will be presented with another bottle and a fresh glass