So you’ve discovered this little thing called wine; wouldn’t it be fun to share it with your friends? You’d like to entertain them, but your house is a mess, and you haven’t any good tablecloth, and your house is being fumigated (for bugs, ew!). Hey, why not go out? I know! How about a restaurant? Not only can you spend time with your loved ones, you can make them feel really guilty if they don’t try some wine!
Wine by the glass
There are a few different ways you can handle wine in a restaurant. One way is “by the glass”. This can be a great way to get good friends to taste fine wine, assuming that the establishment’s selection is decent. Here are a few things to watch out for:
Higher prices: Typically, wine by the glass is much more expensive. If you know you’re going to like a certain type, order the bottle.
Small pours: Some restaurants will pour 6oz glasses while others will pour 5oz glasses. Doing this allows them to get one more glass out of a bottle. Often, simply asking will give you a better chance at getting your money’s worth, because they know that you know, ya know? ;o)
Big pours: Restaurants that are a little less formal may pour too much; this leaves little room for swirling, which often helps with enjoyment. After all, who doesn’t like playing with their wine? Once it is established that a restaurant does indeed over-pour, ask for 2 half glasses. Often you will get more this way!
By the bottle
Another way to treat your good friends and lucky family members (they are lucky to have you aren’t they?) is to buy a bottle of wine with the help of a sommelier. Sad but true, I wasn’t always a wine drinker. This (more or less) is how my wife introduced me; being a wine novice herself, she relied on the sommelier, who picked a great wine in our budget. Once I had tasted a good wine, I was hooked. This approach has a few advantages:
Little wine knowledge needed: You really can’t go wrong with help from the restaurant’s wine service. You will never be worse off for asking than if you hadn’t.
You don’t have to pronounce the names: Pointing at a particular price, wine or winery on the wine list is so much easier than trying to figure out exactly how to say “Gewürztraminer”.
Once the wine is presented, there are a few pitfalls that should be avoided. For instance, when given the cork after opening, don’t sniff it! It is really hard to detect cork taint this way, and (most of the time) you will instead look silly for trying. Also, remember that the taste before the guest serving is not to judge whether or not you like the wine but instead to see if it has gone bad. If you simply don’t like the wine you ordered, then that’s tough luck; don’t try to send it back unless it is obviously corked.
Bring Your Own Bottle
What if you know exactly what wine you want, but the restaurant doesn’t have it? There’s a solution for this too.
Although it isn’t an every day practice, it is often acceptable to bring your own wine to a restaurant. This allows you to share your latest wine findings with friends and family without having to entertain them with your cooking. There is one catch to bringing your own wine, however. Corkage.
For those who are unfamiliar, many times there will be a corkage fee for bringing in your own wine, if you are indeed allowed to bring it. The key here is to know before you make your dining plans. Often, a simple call to the restaurant can save some time and money.
So how much are we talking? About $20 per bottle is common. This can be higher or lower, depending on the restaurant. Corkage fees pay for the extra stemware and service that is normally offered with wine sold by the restaurant.
Want to know a secret? Corkage fees aren’t always charged. Here are a few ways to get by without paying a corkage fee:
Bring one and buy one: For multiple people this is often the way to go. Not only do you get to introduce your loved ones to good wine, you also get to try something else, all while (sometimes) dodging the corkage fee.
Ask the sommelier to taste: Simply asking what the sommelier thinks of your wine, especially if it is of high quality, can sometimes lead to the corkage fee disappearing.
Find a “free corkage” day: Many restaurants have days of the week where they discount or waive the corkage fee. These days aren’t always advertised, so you may have to call and ask.
Once you’ve got a restaurant and wine picked out for the occasion, make sure you don’t make a klutz of yourself (I’ve been there, ha!) by failing at etiquette. Just remember to put the wine on the table as soon as you are seated. This signals to the staff that you will need wine service, allowing them to attend to you easier. After opening, simply allow the waiter or sommelier to pour and serve.
In conclusions these are some of the ways (that I know of) to have a good time with family and friends while drinking wine. That doesn’t mean a lot; there surely are others. If you have any comments or suggestions on other ways to make wine easier for loved ones, then let me know. I would love to hear from you.