Ordering wine with your meal: 4 things to consider

October 9, 2015

Dazzle your date with your wine-ordering expertise. These four insiders' tips will make ordering wine at your next meal a breeze.

Ordering wine with your meal: 4 things to consider

1. Order wine by the bottle

  • Restaurants love it when you order your wine by the glass. That's because they make more money per bottle that way, and you usually end up paying more per sip.
  • How? Do the math. You and your date each order a glass of wine: typically 155 millilitres (five ounces). So far, so good. You liked it, so you each order another glass. Now, you've probably paid a few dollars more than what a bottle costs, and if you'd bought a bottle there would still be another glass left—which you don't have.
  • So, unless you're purposefully tasting around—trying different wines one glass at a time—or you're sure you'll each order only one glass, buy a bottle. It's a better bargain and more fun to boot.

2. Serve your own wine

  • Do you really need your waiter controlling the wine bottle all meal long and refilling your glass every time you take a sip? Before you answer, be aware that the motive isn't entirely good service. Most likely, all that fussing and pouring is about pushing the wine at you so you'll drink more and order more.
  • So, unless you honestly enjoy the extra attention, take control of your own consumption by telling your waiter that you'll be pouring for yourself throughout the meal. After all, it's pretty easy to do.

3. BYOB (bring your own burgundy)

  • Restaurants aren't crazy about customers toting in a bottle of wine to drink with their meals, and the industry has given the impression that you can't do it. This is false: most restaurants, in all price ranges, will let you bring your own bottle, but they'll charge a "corkage fee." That fee might be $10 per bottle or it might be $50 or more. Not only does corkage vary from restaurant to restaurant, it sometimes varies from table to table in any one restaurant. At the end of the day, they can charge whatever they want.
  • So call ahead, let them know what you're bringing with you and ask about the corkage fee. That way you get a fee nailed down in advance and they usually appreciate the heads-up. If you plan to drink a second bottle, consider buying that one from the house. Sometimes when you do that, the corkage fee on the first one goes down or even gets waived.
  • In several provinces—including Quebec and Ontario—some restaurants are designated "Bring Your Own Wine" establishments and customers are encouraged to bring their own. Wineglasses are supplied free of charge and no "corkage fees" are applied. However, waiters expect a better tip for these services.

4. Doggie-bag that merlot, please

  • Hesitant about ordering that second bottle of wine because you're not sure the two of you can finish it? Go ahead. In many of the American states and some provinces, including Quebec, it's perfectly legal to take the unfinished portion home with you (properly sealed and bagged by the restaurant staff).
  • The problem: "recorking" is not something restaurants are in the habit of suggesting, and most diners are unaware that such a thing exists. But now you know, so get that wine to go.


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