Let’s Continue Tasting!

Before we go any further, let me mention that wine is an alcoholic beverage and the consumption thereof should be done legally and responsibly.  I do most of my consumption in my own home.  If you are going to be away from home and doing any traveling, the good ole’ designated driver is very helpful (or a taxi).  Or, you can fall back on the spitting method (my last resort).  What about dining out  and consuming wine?  I think it’s  great to have wine with dinner.  Should you order wine in a restaurant by the glass or the bottle?  Depends.  Do you know what you want to drink and will you have more than one glass?  If you want to change wines during the meal, then you should probably order by the glass.  When ordering by the glass, ask the server how long the bottle has been opened.  A good restaurant should be able to give you an answer.  If they don’t know, you may want to order a bottle.  That way you know when the bottle is opened.  A number of states now permit a bottle to be re-corked so that you may take it home.  You should not hesitate to inquire about this.

When considering wine, you should think about how many glasses are likely to be consumed.  Generally, a bottle of wine amounts to four medium-sized glasses.  If there will be two people drinking wine through the course of dinner, a whole bottle will do very nicely—two glasses apiece.  What if two diners each want a different wine?  Rather than purchase two or more glasses each, I would prefer to purchase two bottles, and take whatever is left over, home.  Sometimes, half-bottles are available.  This might, on occasion, be a viable solution.  Usually, wine by the glass is a little more expensive than by the bottle.  I suggest the 4 to 1 test, that is, is the price of a bottle less than four times the price of a glass?  A number of restaurants and wine bars have certain wines available for half-price and/or certain days when many wines are half-priced or otherwise discounted.  Wines in a restaurant or wine bar will usually be more expensive than when purchased at retail—2 ½  to 3 times retail is not unusual, to my observation.  Much more than that might justify another selection (although many factors go into pricing of wine—to be discussed another time).

How should you choose a wine at a restaurant?  First of all, I decide what foods I am going to eat, including appetizer.  I usually like to have a glass of wine at the outset of a meal, and often, one of the first questions asked by your server, is whether you would care for something to drink.  If I have not yet made any decision, I request only water .  If I have decided on an appetizer, but have not yet decided on an entrée, I may order a glass of wine that complements my appetizer and/or soup and then order a bottle of whatever I wish to enjoy with my main course and, hopefully, that of my dining companion.  If you have planned your dining destination ahead of time, it can be helpful to peruse both the menu and the wine list on-line in order to have an idea of what you wish to order.  If you have questions and/or desire suggestions, you should not hesitate to ask your server or, preferably, a wine steward or sommelier (a person particularly knowledgeable about wine).  They can be very helpful in guiding you to something that is in line with your tastes, your budget, and your food selection, even if you may already know quite a bit about wine.

So what about the pomp and circumstance of opening the bottle you choose at your table?  What is a diner to do?  Typically, you will be shown the bottle to be sure it is what you have requested.  If you wish, take a minute to read the label and the brief description of the wine.  Make sure it is something you think you will like, especially if you are unfamiliar with it.  At a restaurant, you may not wish to be making a quantum leap from your comfort zone, because, if you select something you don’t enjoy, it could detract from your overall dining experience.  Stretching your tasting experiences should probably be saved for winery tastings, festival tastings or at-home tastings.

The cork will often be placed near you (unless it is a screw off cap—a subject for future discussion).  It is not necessary to smell the cork.  (However, if you do and it smells pungent, be prepared to examine further.)  I usually feel the cork and look at it.  If it is totally dry, that could be a concern and,  if there is a line going the length of the cork, that is really a concern because that probably means that air has gotten into the bottle and the wine has turned bitter.  You may hear someone say the bottle is “corked.”  Generally, this means that the wine has turned bad.  Sometimes it is characterized by a wet-newspaper sort of smell.  At this point, I should tell you that there are millions of bottles of wine produced each year (don’t hold me to that number—I didn’t count them, but there are a lot), and one shouldn’t be surprised if, occasionally, you get a bad bottle.  Stuff happens.  Usually, wine which has been shipped and stored properly and is not excessively old, will be fine.  Also, a good wine steward will make every effort not to put a bad bottle before you.  However, if you think there is something wrong with the wine, DO NOT hesitate to say so.  You are the customer!

You likely will be poured a small amount of the wine.  Proceed to taste.  SMELL.  Swirl (we’ll talk about that later, also).  And then taste.  If it meets your approval, indicate the same to the steward or server and then glasses will be poured to all those who are sharing, usually ladies first.  Do not expect your wine glass to be filled.  Typically, it will be filled to 1/3 or ½ of the volume of the glass. Smell the wine throughout your drinking experience, as that greatly enhances your perception of the wine.  Most importantly, ENJOY!

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