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Kosher Wine Society's Wine Ordering Tips

To many diners, a wine list at a restaurant is like a hot potato, everyone wants it out of their hands as fast as possible. When this hot potato lands, some hapless character is responsible for selecting wine for the table. It’s easy to spot these unfortunate souls ?" they fidget in their chair, eyebrows scrunched in deliberation, beads of sweat coagulating on their brows ?" all while staring blankly at a sheet of paper which, to the average restaurant-goer, may as well contain hieroglyphs. After finally committing to a wine, the sommelier is timidly summoned, and the wine is timorously ordered, generally in the form of a question; “We’ll have the third Cabernet from the top?” The Kosher Wine Society has too often seen this tragic comedy play out to its painful climax. We say no more!

Selecting a wine at a restaurant is not quantum physics. In truth, it requires no more skill than ordering your main course. Of course, it helps if you are viticulturally savvy (we at KWS can help with that), but you can conduct yourself admirably even before acquiring basic wine knowledge. By following the simple guidelines listed below at your next restaurant outing, you will feel confident in selecting a wine that you and your tablemates will enjoy.

  1. Avoid the least expensive wine on the list. These wines always receive the largest mark up by wholesalers and restaurateurs. That bottle that you are paying $36 for at the restaurant sold for approximately $16 retail and $6 wholesale. Ultimately, these may be good wines, but they are not good values.
  2. Avoid the most expensive wine on the list. Every wine list showcases at least one bottle of premier, hard to come by wine. This is to keep the heavy-hitting clients that covet a flashy Napa Cab or a snazzy French Bordeaux satisfied. Unless you are positive that you and your fellow diners will appreciate the wine enough to merit the bill, skip it.
  3. Exploit the restaurant’s sommelier mercilessly. Ask lots of questions. Besides boasting a wealth of knowledge about regions, varietals, and vintages, most sommeliers have also sampled all the wines served at their restaurant and will appreciate customer inquiries. Whenever I get stumped at a restaurant with an extensive wine list, I always call the sommelier over for advice. Some of my favorite questions are, “What wine on the list are you most excited about?” and “What wine will pair best with this dish?” and “What wine is drinking well now?” I have discovered many new and thrilling wines thanks to this method.
  4. Try as best you can to give the sommelier an idea of the types of wines that suit your tastes. You don’t have to get specific. The sommelier does not expect you to provide a litany of favorite vintages and wine regions. A simple “I like big, full-bodied, rich wines” will suffice. Usually, what you like in a wine mirrors what you like in food. So if you are a fan of boiled white fish and sauerkraut, by all means tell that to your sommelier. He will find you a suitable wine to match the flavors in that dish.
  5. Caution! Be wary of any white wine from a vintage more than two years old. The only exceptions to this rule are certain reserve Chardonnays.
  6. Double-check the bottle and the vintage when the wine is brought to the table to make sure it is the same one listed on the menu. Too often mistakes are made and the wrong bottle or vintage is passed on to the unsuspecting diners.
These guidelines are the essential tools required to order wine when you are unfamiliar with the labels. If you have knowledge of the wines on a wine list, you should order what you know you like or experiment with things you haven’t yet tried. Obviously, familiarizing yourself with wines is the ideal way to master the art of pairing wines with your meal, but reaching this goal is not easy without assistance.

The Kosher Wine Society will help you develop the necessary knowledge to taste, select, and pair wine correctly. Kosher Wine Society offers wine and spirit events, education workshops, and private events tailored to your specification. We have also developed a strong web presence at which offers constantly updated articles, links to wine retailers, and special member’s only sections. By becoming a Kosher Wine Society member you will not only gain unlimited access to this extensive database of information, but will also enjoy our high quality events ?" both public and private ?" at greatly reduced prices, and receive discounts at select wine stores. From sushi and sake samplers to wine and chocolate pairings, the Kosher Wine Society brings our members the highest quality kosher wine and spirits events in the world. Join Kosher Wine Society and taste the difference!

-From Great Kosher Restaurants 2008 Magazine