The Modern Gentleman Guide to Ordering Wine

We all know that wine snob who loves to boast about his vast knowledge on the most obscure tannin factoids. This is not the blog post for them. Instead, this article is for the everyday wine enthusiast/drinker. Do you want to adequately order a bottle of wine at a restaurant and not sound like a snob while casting an “ignorant” symbol over your head?

Do you want to come off as knowledgeable? Do you want to sound like you can carry a conversation without getting into a contest of who knows more? Do you want to order the perfect bottle for the date you're trying to impress…Here's how to do exactly that!

Understand the Different Bodies of Wines

When people describe a wine using words like “light,” “medium,” and “full,” they’re referring to how thick the wine actually feels on their tongues. A good way to think of it is the way skim milk feels in your mouth compared to whole milk or heavy cream. Light-bodied wine might feel more watery, and fuller-bodied wine will feel heavier and fuller in your mouth.

Although many different factors contribute to a wine's body, the main factor is alcohol—gives wine its viscosity. In most cases, wines under 12.5% alcohol-by-volume are light-bodied wines, such as Riesling or Prosecco. Wines between 12.5% and 13.5% ABV are considered medium-bodied.

Good examples of medium-bodied wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rose. Wines that are over 13.5% ABV are considered full-bodied wines. Some wine varieties considered full-bodied include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec.

red wine color chart

Read the Wine Label

Don’t be one of those people who just stare and admire the wine label without reading a word. While all the information on wine labels may seem daunting, reading a wine bottle label can be fairly simple once you know what to look for. Here are a few meaningful facts to watch out for:

  • Name of the producer- this is who made the wine with each bringing their own expertise and uniqueness. Producers are very often an expression of the wine style of a particular territory. So if you like wine, you can try others by the same producer.
  • Vintage or Non-Vintage- A wine’s “vintage” is the year in which the grapes used to make the wine were harvested. To be labeled “vintage,” the wine must be sourced 75-95% from the same grape harvest. Non-vintage wines are made from blending grapes from multiple harvests.
  • Region of Origin-a wine label that states the specific vineyard as opposed to the country of origin only is often a good indication of refinement and premium quality.
  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV) -Red, white, and rosé wines with an alcohol by volume content of 14% or less are considered “table wine” in the U.S. 
  • Appellation-On any Old World bottle of wine, expect to see the appellation. This is the geographical indication used to identify grape varieties permitted, production rules, and other restrictions applied to the wine. 

You Might Also Enjoy Reading: Old World Wine vs. New World Wine

wine bottle label

Choose the Proper Wine for the Any Occasion

Wine is a staple for a variety of occasions as it conveys a feeling of sophistication, class and simplicity all at the same time. But which bottle to open? There are numerous types of wine; however, not all wines will fit the same event or party. For instance, the last thing you want to do is pop a champagne bottle open when comforting a friend who’s lost his job or got jilted by his lover. Knowing how to choose the proper wine for each occasion is a valuable skill. 

  • Champagne or Prosecco- ideal for celebrations such as weddings or graduation parties.
  • If you have an occasion with several people in attendance, consider having both a bottle of red and white wine to cover plenty of palates. If you want to try both reds and whites, start with white wines and work your way to the reds. Since white wine doesn’t have the same level of tannins as red, it acts as a great primer for your palate in readiness to sample darker options
  • A bottle of Rosé would do well for a sunny outdoor picnic or event.
Rose best for sunny bright days

Wine and Food Pairing

Pairing food and wine takes some practice, but once you learn the essentials, you will be able to make a selection easily. 

  • Fish goes best with sparkling or white dry wine such as Pinot Grigio or Riesling.
  • Red meat such as beef or lamb pairs well with a full red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.
  • Salty, fried foods go perfectly with sparkling wine as the carbonation cleans salt from your palate with each sip.
  • Most cheeses will pair well with dry rosé, due to its dual nature (it has the acidity of white wine and the fruitiness of a red.) 
  • With desserts, make sure to get a fortified wine that tastes as sweet. Popular dessert wines include Madeira, Vermouth, and Sherry.
red wine pairing with steak

Some wines are versatile enough to allow you the flexibility to occasionally break the traditional wine-pairing rules. Also, never choose the second cheapest wine on the menu and easily fall for this restaurant trick. This wine is usually the same quality as the cheapest one but with a higher markup. 

How to Serve Wine Properly

White wine glasses tend to be smaller than red wine glasses for a reason. White wine glasses are generally narrower to allow for greater concentration of the aroma and flavor.

On the other hand, red wines need to oxidize for the flavors to develop fully. Hence the wide bowl shape allows more of the wine to come into contact with the air. Don’t be afraid to swirl the wine in your glass to expose it to a larger surface area.

This increases wine’s contact with air and intensifies its aroma. Remember when drinking wine, always hold the wine glass by its stem between your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.

To get the best taste out of your wine, serve a red wine at room temperature while white wines are best served chilled. This is because the tannins in red wine tend to taste bitter as they get cold, which means your wines won’t taste its best when it’s cold.

how to hold wine glass

Credit: Wine Folly

How to Order Wine During a Date

Choosing an expensive wine for its price point may mislead you — a more expensive bottle of wine does not always mean it is going to be a better bottle of wine. When selecting the wine you want to order one with the flavors and characteristics you prefer. 

That’s why it is important to keep a mental or actual note of the details of the wines you drink. These include: the producer, region or grape variety used to make the wine. Keeping these notes handy on your phone means you can refer to them the next time you need to impress a lady with your wine selection. 

Bonus Tip- it’s always better to go with the wine origin of the restaurant, so if you’re dining in a Italian restaurant, go for a wine from an Italian region:. Cuisines and wines from the same region tend to blend well.

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