In my last post I tried to address a little wine lingo to get started — and we will get back to that in future posts — but I wanted to give restaurant goers a few quick suggestions on how to get the best out of your wine experience. This is specific to the kind of restaurants that have some level of respect for their wine program.
First: Never act like you know everything about wine, because no matter how much you know, there is a ton you don’t. You can love wine and convey your passion without projecting pretention — the last thing the wine team needs is a lesson from a customer. Try asking for the sommelier or the person in charge of the list, introduce yourself and the table, and make a connection. It is a good time to inform them of the purpose of the meal as it will help them help you make good choices.
Second: Know what you want to get out of the experience and articulate that to the sommelier as simply as possible, then trust them to ask the right questions to lead you in the right path. “Tonight we are celebrating! It would be nice to start with sparkling and then follow with a white and red that will go with our meal.” Or, “we like big, bold, full-bodied reds.” It never hurts to let them know a style or producer of wine you enjoy at home; it will assist them in finding a good match for you and help them gauge how much you are looking to spend without talking about money at the table.
Third: Ask your guests what and if they plan on drinking so the service of the wine flows smoothly. Relay that information to the person serving so they know before pouring who is getting what. It is also important to trust the sommelier on how they see the wine best served, whether it needs decanting, and the proper serving temperature and glassware. This does not mean you need to take their, advice but if you disagree or have a quirky preference, be kind in your delivery. No one is right or wrong in these situations.
Last: Relax and enjoy your food, wine and company. If you get exceptional wine service and you think you may return, slipping the sommelier a little cash will likely help him or her to remember you on future visits.
Some of these tips are just simple human courtesy that often seem to go out the window for some when ordering wine at the dinner table. One final note: If you plan on bringing your own win,e it is always best to call ahead and confirm their corkage policy. Let them know what you plan on bringing in advance. It is the right thing to do, and will usually greatly improve the service you receive.