How do you order wine at a restaurant? Do you pick blindly, swirl the glass, sniff it and then declare it good? Do you go straight for the by the glass options so you don’t have to commit to one? Or do you go straight to the dollar symbols and pick the second cheapest? If you fall into the last category then guess what? You and every other guy ordering at the bar does the same thing.
The second cheapest bottle theory is actually a well-explored phenomenon and restaurants know it and sometimes even choose cheaper wines for the ‘second cheapest’ spot. Sommelier Kirsten Vicenza told Atlas Obscura that restaurants would often even place a bottle they are looking to get rid of into that slot knowing it would sell. You could actually be better off buying the cheapest bottle sometimes but you don’t want to take that risk.
So how do you choose? Sommelier Sean McManus told D’Marge that most wine lists are actually designed to help you choose that perfect drop.
“A good wine list will be broken down from lightest juice to heaviest at the back.”
Basically, if you want a red that’s easy to drink look at the front of the red section if you want something more bold head to the back.
Leaving food pairing aside, you need to know how to order a wine that both of you will enjoy and McManus suggests that when looking for a starting tipple you learn towards white wine. Specifically a Riesling due to its fresh taste that leaves the mouth craving for more while also satisfying it.
If the list is still daunting then McManus says you can always lean back on some sparkling wine. McManus suggests a sparkling Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France for its elegant and refreshing taste. Go figure sparkling was made in regions other than Champagne-Ardenne in France.
If you want to support your local wine growers though go no further than something local from Tasmania which has become world-renowned for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bubbles according to McManus.
Depending on your venue you may or may not be fortunate enough to have a sommelier on hand. If you do, use them, they are discreet and there to help you find the perfect wine, for whatever the occasion.
“When all else fails lean on the sommelier. Just say what dishes you’re thinking about, what colour wine you want and point discreetly to a numerical value on the list you want to work with”