5 Tips for Ordering Wine on a Date (Without Looking Dumb)

Posted September 30, 2014

WineLibrary Staff

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You’ve picked the place, scored a table and taken your seats. After a brief exchange, the waiter hits you with the inevitable question “are you interested in wine tonight?”

You can do this. Not only can you do it, you can look good doing it.

Here’s how:

1. Ask Questions

Can’t decide whether Chardonnay or Champagne would be best with your creamy lobster bisque? Cool. Ask. Wondering how to pronounce Chenin Blanc? Easy fix. Ask.

It’s dinner, not the bar exam. Also, the best defense is a good offense. Get the waiter or sommelier on your side by being curious and engaged. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how frequently you get steered in the right direction.

2. Set The Rules, Then Play The Game

Don’t be afraid to set your price range. It’s totally okay. If you’re shy about mentioning an exact number, you could point to an item on the menu that’s in your range and ask for a similar bottle. Another approach is to seek value from something you know you like; for example, “I’m looking for a good value in a Cabernet.”

If none of that works, fire your waiter.

3. Keep It Stupid Simple

It’s not your job to be a wine expert, it’s your job to smile, enjoy your meal and try to make interesting conversation with your date. Tannins? Acidity? Texture? Fuggedaboutit.

It’s okay to talk about wine in the same way you would food: “I’d like something light, crisp and a little sweet, or I’d like something bold and fruity or mellow and savory.” Or whatever.

You’ll get a lot farther with lots of little words than a few big ones.

4. Plates Before Grapes

If possible, order your food first. It’s easier to paint when you’ve got a canvas. Wine affects your experience of food and vice-versa. If you aren’t sure what kinds of flavors would go well with what you’ve ordered, now would be a good time to revisit item number 1 on this list.

5. Trust Yourself

Don’t be afraid to make a call based on instinct, to choose something you can relate to. Let’s say as the waiter describes the profile of a particular wine, he mentions something about ripe berries. “I like ripe berries” says a voice in your head. Then another voice says “but the one he mentioned before had great structure.”

That second voice is your inner snob. Tell that voice to shut up so you can enjoy your ripe berries.

Pretty painless, right? Now which is the salad fork and which is the dinner fork?  You’re on your own.

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