Lots of people shy away from asking for recommendations as they believe it’s an easy way for the sommelier to just select the most expensive bottle, but that’s far from the case. Sommeliers spend their days tasting wine and will relish in the opportunity to share their lesser-known discoveries with you. A good sommelier will be able to understand the kind of wine you're looking for, the range of your budget in just a few sentences of chat.
2. Give an indication of your budget
Either set out your budget range immediately, or ask for their opinions on a few wines within your budget that you point at on the menu. This will give the sommelier an idea of what type of price range you’re looking at. The sommelier is there to help, not to trick you!
3. Find out what type of tastes/flavours you enjoy
Take the online quiz here, to see what kind of wines suit your taste buds. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about wine to take the quiz. You’ll see..
4. Order wine by the glass
If you’re still not sure which wine to get, tell the sommelier you’d like to try a range of wines, by the glass. This means you get to try a few different suggestions and won’t be stuck on one wine that you’re not fond of for the whole meal.
5. What to do when the sommelier presents you with the cork?
No, you’re not meant to sniff it. Presenting the cork after opening the bottle dates back to the 1800’s where it was used as a way of showing the customer that the wine was really what it said it was on the label (not a counterfeit). These days it’s used as more of a ritual in fine-dining. If it’s a particularly good bottle of wine, you can take the cork home as a reminder. But, please, no sniffing!
6. Prioritise your wine order over your food order.
Wine without food is fine; food without wine is a disaster.
7. Stick to the speciality of the restaurant.
If you notice that 80% of the wines on the list come from Italy, then your best bet is it go for one of them as it’s clearly what they do best.
8. Look for the wines you already know.
And then mentally cross them off. Where’s the fun in trying wines you already know you like (and can buy for half the price when you’re not in a restaurant!)
9. Got the bottle?
Or going for the glass? Before you decide to ‘just have a glass’, make sure to do your maths. A standard bottle of 750 ml will make 4 (large) glasses of wine. Restaurants tend to charge a premium for wines by the glass, so it’s almost always beneficial to buy a bottle over a glass, even if you think you won’t finish the bottle (but then end up finishing it, because really, who leaves a bottle un-drunk?)
10. Bring your own wine!
There are many great restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine to the restaurant, sometimes even without charging a corkage fee. Have a look at our favourite BYOB restaurants in London.
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