You’re out with the girls enjoying an exquisite lunch, or spending a night on the town with the man you’re keen to impress. You’re looking gorgeous, and totally in control, so the waiter hands you the wine list.
Suddenly, you start wondering whether you’d be able to quietly duck away and climb out the loo window in your new sling backs.
Taking charge of what the table should drink is a responsibility many women shy away from. While it’s now popular to order wine by the glass, there are still times when it’s expected you’ll share a bottle together.
So what should you order to please everyone? Is there just one wine that will go with all the main courses? How much should you spend?
Here’s our guide to staying fabulous while ordering wine for the table.
It’s okay to look cheap
Not in life of course. C’est une catastrophe! But when it comes to choosing wine, if the one you want happens to be the cheapest one on the list, then go for it.
Don’t forget that it had to pass a taste test to be included on the list in the first place. So just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality. There’s always one bottle that has to be lowest in price.
Get totally relaxed about food and wine matching
But how can I relax when I’m having the fish and she’s having lamb shanks. What on earth could go with both?
Despite what the food and wine media would have you believe there really are no hard and fast wine pairing rules. There are suggestions only — and they’re broken ALL the time.
Yes, a good wine and food match can elevate the taste and enjoyment of a meal. But you can still have a wonderful dining experience with a not-quite-textbook pairing.
The important thing is the conviviality. Food and wine always taste better when there’s good company and good times. So staying relaxed about it will benefit everyone.
Even if you’re ordering poached fish in Asian style broth and your dining partner wants meaty lamb stew, you can definitely find a happy middle ground.
In this case, a lighter-style, fruity red wine – such as a Grenache, a Gamay (or a French Beaujoais) or even a fruit driven Pinot Noir – could work with both dishes.
If you absolutely can’t agree then now’s the time to simply order by the glass!
Having a wine list in front of you, and good friends to share a bottle with, is a great opportunity to try something new.
Trying something completely different can take the attention away from finding the “perfect match” and make the dining experience a fun and interesting time for all of you. It can also lead to some really surprising discoveries.
There are an increasing number of new varieties and blends becoming available, so if you see something you’ve never heard of before, why not take the chance to try it! Don’t forget – it’s made it onto the list so it’s already been deemed worthy of tasting.
Ask the experts
If you’re lucky enough to be eating at an establishment that has a somellier working the floor, then use them! Sommeliers are well trained in wine and food pairings and really know their stuff. They’ve probably even selected all the wines on the list that you’re reading and know them inside out.
Deferring to a Sommelier never reflects badly on you. In fact, understanding why the Sommelier is there and engaging them to assist you makes you appear even more fabulous to everyone present.
Ech. That’s awful. Can I send it back?
If you’ve chosen the bottle and you don’t like it, well…what was that about escaping through the ladies room window? It’s rather poor etiquette to send back a bottle if you’ve selected it but you just don’t fancy the taste. Some places will do it if you let them know you’re not happy – but just don’t expect it.
However, if the Sommelier has recommended it as the best choice for you, it’s okay to let them know and request an alternative bottle.
If you suspect that the cats wee flavour or the eau de body odour is actually from a flaw in the wine, the best way to handle the situation is to invite your Sommelier to try the wine with you and determine together if it’s time to get a different bottle.
The issue of a wine being “corked” is virtually a thing of the past with so many wines now using screwtops. But there are plenty more flaws that can affect a wine other than corking, so don’t be embarrassed to mention a problem with the wine, even if you’re wine hasn’t had a cork in sight.
It’s simple to remain confident and fabulous when faced with a wine list. Just stay relaxed, show a little adventure and don’t get hung up on price. Flashy and expensive isn’t always better. (Haven’t we all learned THAT the hard way!)
Next time you’re asked to choose the wine enjoy the experience, and stay fabulous!
P.S. You might also like The Fabulous Ladies’ Guide to ordering from a wine list: Part 2 – Ordering by the glass.