how can I feel confident ordering wine in restaurants

In case you haven’t noticed, we like our wine at the TriWivesClub. It is definitely one of our pleasures and a way to cope with the triathlon lifestyle…at times…But, we’ve actually even started to get a bit more sophisticated about wine and learning what constitutes a good wine from a “why am I drinking this crap” wine. It has been an experience, however, albeit a fun one and we’ve probably come off looking quite uneducated and silly at times ordering wine in restaurants. But, that’s okay, our embarrassment is your gain.

We’ve divided this article into two parts. The first is about ordering wine in restaurants with confidence and the second part is about feeling comfortable attending wine tastings. Regardless, you should love what you drink, have fun, and savor the wine like you should your life!



Who Selects the Wine

If you’re with a group of people, there’s usually the issue of who gets to select the wine, along with who likes red, who likes white, who wants dry…Sometimes it’s just easier for everyone to order by the glass. But, if you decide to get bottles and someone steps up and grabs the wine list, then you need to decide if you’re comfortable letting them do this. We’ve had a friend who took the lead and ordered a $150 bottle of wine that we didn’t realize until the check came. An expensive lesson was learned. It makes for a great story AND gets our point across about price. If no one is really comfortable making the selection, then…

Get Help From the Wait Staff

I think ordering wine in a restaurant is hard for pretty much everyone. You want to get a nice bottle, but don’t want to REALLY overpay, and don’t want to come off looking totally naive. Plus, most people are uncomfortable saying how much they want to spend for a bottle. But, please don’t. Tell them price range along with your preference – white/red, dry/sweet, French/California, etc. and let them make a recommendation. This is your chance to discover a new wine that you would probably have never tried.

what are some things I can do to feel more comfortable drinking and ordering wine

I am very clear when they ask what I like. With a white, I may say crisp, light, easy to drink with a fruity taste, or with a red, solid, but not super strong, without a tangy taste. You don’t have to take their recommendation, but I’m not often steered wrong as it is their reputation and they do want you to be pleased.

Sometimes there won’t be a sommelier at a restaurant and it’s up to the waiter to make a recommendation. This option may come with mixed results, but they should be trained in what’s on their wine list. When in doubt, I will pick either a label I’m familiar with or type of grape I want to drink in the mid-priced range. If I don’t know the labels, I do ask what’s dry as I’m very particular about not drinking a sweet wine. I do find unfamiliar wine lists quite often especially at say French restaurants and do need help.

How to Be the Wine Taster

This moment can also be a bit stressful. Do you swirl, sniff, and taste and do you drink the whole amount poured or just a sip? I recommend taking a sniff and then taking a sip. I don’t swirl as I’m not sure it will make a difference in my taste and I’m not comfortable doing it. If you are and know what you’re doing, swirl away!

what can I do to not be intimidated ordering wine in restaurants

If You Don’t Like The Wine

I’ve rarely had this happen, but you can get a bad bottle. You definitely should say something if it tastes bad/rancid. The som will generally take a sip and get you a different bottle. If you just don’t like the taste, say you were hoping for something dryer or sweeter. Again just say something and they will generally ask questions and recommend a different bottle.

Order and Drink What You Like

Order white wine if you like white wine! Even if you’re having meat, unless of course pairing wine with food is important to you, then most often this is preselected for you. When you just can’t decide, a blend will often work.


Drinking wine should always be pleasurable. Having to order a glass or bottle in a restaurant shouldn’t diminish that pleasure. As people say, life is too short to not drink what you like…