Winebbling with a Hot Date (or Homely Boss)

This post will keep you from looking like a cheap shit head while ordering wine on a date or at a high stakes business meeting. Preserve your dignity, damn it.

Whether meeting at the bar last weekend, back in college, or on–the lucky ones find themselves aimlessly wandering around looking for the other half of their hermaphroditically complete selves. The others are too busy climbing an obnoxiously ambitious social ladder to notice their own notifications on OK cupid. But hey, c’est la vie pals.  We all still need to impress our boss (or future lover) in order to move out of that gray cube and up to the seventh floor office (or fresh fling’s apartment).  Inevitably, a time will come when a fancy dinner date is either warranted, expected, or black-mailed out of us.  The reasoning behind this logic puzzle is simple: If there is a fancy dinner, there will also be wine. And if there is wine, then you will most likely be forced to order it. 

Gasp! But how? I saw you the last time you were in a public eating space. Stressed and overwhelmed by the prices and quietly  mumbling beneath your breath, “What the hell is a Pinot?” You were loosening your tie and fidgeting with the table cloth as it skimmed the tops of your tucked under legs. You ironed your damn pants for this. How could you have forgotten about the wine?

Let it go and please stop sweating–it’s gross. Here are some steps to keep yourself from looking like Bill Clinton circa 1998 next time you find yourself gorging on overpriced fare.


1. Do a little homework. If you are really nervous about this moment (and slightly neurotic), do a little research before you go to the restaurant. Most restaurants put their menu online so it is easy for you to take a look before you go. Sometimes wine can be an investment, so it might help to know what you are getting into first. Usually, just google searching the name of the vineyard and the vintage (that’s the year, guys) will yield enough information about what it might be like.

2. Know how to read the menu.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 7.20.38 PM

3. Think about what you might be eating. A good rule of thumb is that heavy wine padnahs (that means pairs for you snotties out there) with heavy food–light wine goes with light food. If you want to get more serious, check out this info graphic that essentially everyone has been posting and re-posting and easily google searching lately. I think my dog even found it. If you haven’t seen it–you quite possibly live under a rock.


4. Ask for suggestions based off of what you prefer and what you are eating.  There is someone in that place who knows what they are talking about. If you don’t possess stealth one-handed under the table google searching skills–ask for suggestions.

And, for the love of god, do not have this conversation:
You: Um, yo. What wine do I want?
Them: Well, what kind of wine are you looking for?
You: Um. Something? I don’t know. Just, well, what do you like? 


Obstacle 1: What someone else “likes” is not going to be what you like. Remember that asshole frat-daddy your roommate dated in college? She was in love? He looked like a easter egg hunt? Right. So don’t let other people pick your tastes.  Next.

Obstacle 2: If you don’t know what you are eating or what you care for, then how in the hell is your waiter or sommelier (that’s wine speak for head wine bitch in charge at a restaurant or bar) going to know what will be good for you? They are not clairvoyant– despite the misleading size of their egos.

Do These Things Instead:

    • Tell the waiter what you are having and ask him for recommendations.
    • Let your waitress know if you are looking for a particular type of wine. Describe your tastes. Maybe you feel like a red? Perhaps you hate Chardonnay? Give her some boundaries or at least something to play with. It makes it more fun, anyway.
    • Learn something. Chances are, if you are reading this, these guys know more than we do about wine. At least, we can pray to the wine gods that they do. This is your chance! Don’t let it pass you by. The only way to become more comfortable with wine is if you explore it.
    • Keep an open mind to new varietals. Basically, try new things and be adventurous. Duh.

5. Use this sneaky price trick. There is just no way that you (or me or my parents or anyone I know) can pay $7,000,000 for a glass of wine. But, we also want to make sure that we’re getting a good pick.  In these moments, muster all restraint and refrain from screaming out, “Please don’t choose the one that will force me to trade in my deceased grandmother’s wedding band!”  Simply tell him that you would, “like something similar to these wines,” and circle the price range with your finger on the menu. If the guy isn’t totally dense, he should get your signal and will make a recommendation accordingly–without letting your date or boss notice that you are actually calculating how many granola bars you’re going to have to eat for lunch next week in order to pay for this.

6. By the glass or bottle? This is really up to your table, time, and available funds. Discuss accordingly. Please weigh in your wallet–but do so privately. Don’t be a dumb ass.

Taking Part in an Ostentatious Wine Ceremony
You ordered–but wait, here comes the bottle. Oh. Shit. 

1. The waiter will show you the label. Check it out and make sure it is actually the one you ordered–as if they’re going to get it wrong, anyway. Essentially, this is a formality. But, it does make you look (and feel) like an in-charge badass. The key thing to look for is the vintage. That could possibly be the only thing that could easily become shuffled.

2. He will open it. And if you ordered it, you go first (inside celebration commences, now).  Basically, you just chill and the waiter will pour you a little tiny bit in your glass. Don’t be alarmed, you will be getting more alcohol soon. Breathe. In case this moment stresses you out, you may need to contact AA.

3. Swirl, smell, taste.  Swirl your glass around on the table for a few seconds. Then, smell it. Don’t stick your entire nose in there, people. Just sniff a bit. Finally, taste it.

4. Accept it. MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THIS POST. DO NOT SEND A BOTTLE BACK. This is not a moment for a wine tasting, darlings. You are not the Bachelorette of the wine list–you’re marrying the one you picked for keeps. Dating took place back with the menu. Party’s over. The only way you divorce your bottle is if it is something called corked. This just means that the wine has turned into shitty vinegar tasting sludge.

5. He will serve your guest (or guests) first, then top you off last. It’s coming, I promise. Wait patiently as the waiter works his way around the table clockwise, say a little cheers after everyone has their glass, and bottoms up (by the stem)!

Bravo and Breathe, darlings.




  1. winebbler

    Kidding, but in all seriousness, I left it out because I’ve heard that people don’t do that as much anymore. At least, according to internet search engine results. What do you do with the cork? Some people wave it in front of their nose to smell-check the wine. Apparently, this makes sure that the wine isn’t spoiled. But, to me, the whole process looks a bit…silly. I read that you can check out the bottom of the cork to make sure that it (if red) is entirely colored. This lets you know that the wine has been stored properly on its side. Another thing a cork may tell you is that if it does not have coloration on the sides, then it hasn’t been oxidized–which essentially means that it is good to go! Is there a better way to handle the cork situation? Where do you put it if it is given to you? Would love to have your feedback. Thanks for checking out my blog!

    • riarose84

      I LOVE your blog…mostly because I love drinking and talking about wine – simultaneously of course!

      I will say, having worked in wine restaurants, the cork trick tells you about the bottle even before the aeration and tasting processes. The “wet newspaper” smell is the one to keep in mind after opening the bottle. 99.9% of the time, this smell indicates the bottle has turned and will not be good. From the server’s perspective, once I have identified that smell, a new bottle will be presented and the restaurant can trade the bad bottle for a new one via its wine vender. However there are a lot of people out there who think they know everything about wine, so the cork trick is not advertised because then everyone would question the “bad” smell. You will know it when you smell it…and then you won’t forget!

      Happy wine-ing! Can’t wait for more posts!

      • winebbler

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment! How often have you identified a bad bottle? And as a patron, what would be the polite way to let the waitress know if they catch it first? So glad you’re following along–will be posting more soon! Bisous, C.

      • riarose84

        I have identified a bad bottle by the cork theory three times in my serving career – while giving the wine presentation; one more additional time at home. Three times (with the cork theory) the bottles were $60+ retail. One additional time the cork smelt fine, its condition was in good shape and the vintage was recent – the guest tasted it and by the facial expression, I knew it was bad.

        To your point 4 – excellent way of telling people how it is! However if the bottle has turned a good/experienced server will not wait for you to send it back – the bottle will immediately disappear and you as the guest should have the option to choose another label all together or try again with the same. Most restaurants want you to enjoy your meal…ya know…so you come back – to force you to drink a bad bottle – is A) bad customer service and B) unorthodox to the entire wine experience.

        To answer your question: sometimes servers can tell, especially if they have tasted a bad bottle themselves…other times (less experienced drinkers shall we say) may not read your expression as it relates to the wine, so simply stating you think the bottle has gone bad is sufficient. Stating you do not like the bottle is a completely different story. Like you mentioned – if you have asked questions and held a conversation with the server, chances are you have a second choice in mind.

        I love your point of view…every person who goes out to eat/drink should read this! With your permission, I may have to re-blog this on my own site for a future post idea.

        keep it real

      • winebbler

        Of course you may reblog–feel free! I hope you keep reading. I love getting your insightful feedback. Really enjoy what you have to say–I am learning so much! Looking forward to reading more of your posts as you develop your blog. Bisous! C. xx

  2. intenselyme

    Ah, I love this post. 🙂 Thanks for helping me “step up” in the world. This is definitely helping me with my ‘learn to appreciate wine’ life goal. I have never ordered a wine at a restaurant before. I must do that sometime soon. 😀

  3. intenselyme

    Reblogged this on A Tornado Called Krissy and commented:
    Hmm, I love this post. 😀 What wonderful instructions on how to not look like an idiot while ordered wine at a fancy restaurant. I’m definitely going to have to employee this list sometime soon. This whole blog (Winebbler) is helping me with my list list goal, “Learn to appreciate wine”. So I’m pretty excited about that. Definitely check this out.

    • winebbler

      This makes me so happy. So glad that you are enjoying following along. Hope you can try out your tricks soon and let me know how it goes. Love that you are following along and learning with me! Best, C. xx

    • the wine serf

      It was a super-solid, comprehensive approach to ordering wine. I loved it. A few other stratagems/sidebars of note, from my experience(s)…
      –higher end restaurants may not list grape varietal for old world wines: you’ll see ‘Loire’ or ‘Friuli.’ You may want a big powerfully tannic old world red and nab a killer Beaujolais Nouveau. Sounds big, right? Not so much. If you find yourself in a place like this and don’t want to ask, stick to new world until you know what each old world region has under the hood.
      –ask what the chef/more experienced staff drink after (or during) their shift. They know value better than anyone. They’re also savvy to the freshness factor.
      –in all but a few wine-centred restaurants with fancy systems, buying by the glass is a crap-shoot. Revert to the previous point. Know which wines have just been opened. Or go bottle.
      –I totally agree with the send-back policy. If the wine is simply not your style, chalk it up to a learning experience. But if there is the slightest sensation that something it wrong (and our palates are super-sensitive to things that are spoiled), send it back. The server/restaurant loses no revenue. It should be no big deal. When I was working in the industry, I would beg guests to send wine they thought was bad back. Better to have a happy guest that returns than to unload a single bottle of tainted wine. If the server gives you a problem, he/she is a short-sighted amateur. Ask for a professional.
      –the screw top. This technology may have solved the ‘corked’ issue, but it if the wine is not stored properly (i.e. on a greasy shelf next to the grill hood, simmering for three to six months) it will not taste right. It will be ‘off.’ Simply showing me the screw-top and telling me ‘it’s impossible’ does not alleviate the laws of molecular biology. Storage still matters.
      –the final strategy, maybe the most important one, is to educate yourself to ‘high-value regions.’ There are still corners of the wine world where you can get great quality for low dollars. Pick something you’ve never heard of from Languedoc or Navarra or Stellenbosch. There are lots of blogs working on this full-time, including the wine serf.

  4. Oenophilogical

    I especially like the “sneaky price trick.” That is a really good one!! And the cork presentation thing … I believe that’s only if you have ordered the bottle of wine for the table. When you are ordering a glass of wine – even should yours be the first glass from the bottle – pretty sure they won’t present the cork.

    • winebbler

      Agreed. Thanks so much for reading! I think I read that from a Men’s magazine, somewhere. I thought it was pretty clever, as well. Hope you keep following along. Best, C. xx

  5. sudebaker

    I know *nothing* about wine except colors and a very mundane passing down of knowledge that white wine goes with poultry and red wine with beef. Not even sure if that’s right. And I am definitely no longer in my 20s. Thank God! Thanks for the info and the follow 🙂

  6. kerbey

    Wine finds its way into my life weekly, if not daily–and I’m sick of answering the stupid doctor questionairres that say a woman should have no more than one glass of wine daily (at 4 oz). First off, that is just a supersized shot. Second, who has A glass of wine? What’s the point? Sometimes I wish I were Italian so I could justify my imbibing. I am older than you but much cheaper; Walgreen’s knows me more for my many pre-party wine purchases than for my monthly Loreal box. Ever since they stocked an aisle w/ wine, the place is packed. I should have bought stock in it. And it’s not Boone’s or Paul Masson. They actually have a couple decent Rieslings. I know that sounds white trash, and we’ve bought plenty of liquor store bottles of wine, but hey, Walgreen’s is a three minute drive. And congrats on your Liebster.

  7. Pingback: I can’t go for that: Spargelsaison | Gin and Teutonic

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