Taste-Testing a Bottle of Wine when Dining Out

Part of the Wine All-In-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The process of tasting wine from a bottle that you've ordered in a restaurant can be intimidating, but this quick guide to the wine-tasting ritual makes it easy. Evaluating wine involves a bit of ceremony, but there’s logic behind it. Step by step, the wine-presentation goes like this:

  1. The server or sommelier presents the bottle to you (assuming that you’re the person who ordered the wine) for inspection. Check the label carefully and feel the bottle with your hand to determine whether its temperature seems to be correct. If you’re satisfied with the bottle, nod your approval to the server.

    This step enables you to make sure that the bottle is, in fact, the bottle you ordered.

  2. The server removes the cork and places it in front of you. Inspect the cork and sniff it to make sure it’s in good condition.

    In rare instances, a wine may be so corky that the cork itself will have an unpleasant odor. On even rarer occasions, the cork might be wet and shriveled or dry and crumbly; either situation suggests that air has gotten into the wine and spoiled it.

    If the cork raises your suspicions, wait to smell or taste the wine itself before deciding whether to reject the bottle.

  3. The server pours a small amount of wine into your glass and waits. Now is when you swirl the wine in the glass, take a sniff, perhaps a little sip, and then indicate whether you find the wine acceptable.

    If the wine is fine, you can nod or murmur, “It’s fine.” If something is wrong with the wine, now is the time to return it — not after you’ve finished half the bottle!

    If you decide that the bottle is out of condition, describe to the server what you find wrong with the wine. If the sommelier or wine specialist agrees that it’s a bad bottle, he may bring you another bottle of the same, or he may bring you the wine list so you can select a different wine. Either way, the ritual begins again.

  4. If you accept the wine, the server pours the wine into your guests’ glasses and then finally into yours.

    Now you’re allowed to relax.

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