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How to Order Wine at a Restaurant

As you sit down to enjoy a meal at a dining establishment, one of the first things a server will hand you is the restaurant’s wine list. For many, the thought of flipping though this book can be daunting – after all, how are you to choose from dozens (and sometimes hundreds… or even thousands!) of wines while considering factors like brands, vintages, AVAs, and pairings? 

Our first tip: don’t be intimidated. Choosing a wine should be a fun experience and, with a few pointers, you’ll be ordering like a pro in no time. 


  • Order the wine you enjoy. Don’t worry so much about “pairing” or “matching” wines.  Enjoy the wine you love with the dish you love.
  • Call ahead. If you are ordering that special bottle that should be decanted, DO call ahead to the restaurant and ask the sommelier to decant the wine prior to your arrival.  This way each glass will be as delicious as the next.
  • Try matching up regions. Matching a dish to its regional equivalent in wine makes for a great experience. For example, if you’re considering trying the daily special with the Alsatian flair, branch out and try a wine from the same region.
  • Start by-the-glass. Don’t hesitate to ask for a taste before making your selection. 


  • Don’t heistate to ask questions. Your server or sommelier can help steer you in the proper direction based on your likes/dislikes.
  • Don’t feel stuck to the by-the-glass menu. If you are with a group or plan on having more than a glass or two, the price of a bottle will likely be much easier on your wallet anyway. 
  • Don’t judge a wine by its screw cap. We know that the screw cap versus cork debate can be polarizing, but there are many quality wines that are bottled using the newer screw cap method; the design of the screw cap has evolved over the years to mimic the qualities of cork. 


  • If you have trouble deciding which bottle of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc to choose, go for the single-vineyard selection.  A single-vineyard wine, generally speaking, will have been treated with the utmost care from farm to glass. 
  • It is completely acceptable to ask the server or sommelier to serve at the proper temperature.
  • The sommelier will pour a taste for the host, the person who ordered the wine, to check for soundness of the wine.  The sommelier will then pour (clockwise when possible) for all guests before serving the host.

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