Wine at a Restaurant

The afternoon sun is waning and the faces around the office are thinning out. You’re not nervous about tonight’s first date, but when it comes to ordering the wine, you want be swift and sure in your decision. You arrive at the restaurant ahead of schedule to get your bearings with the wine list, but just as you begin to crack the surface, you notice your date strolling through the door. Your genius plan has been foiled, and now you’re reduced to choosing the wine at the table.

After being seated, you failingly try to listen to your counterpart by giving weak facial recognition of their dialogue while you simultaneously fumble through the wine list – it’s as thick as a textbook and as archaic as the scriptures. The list seems to be growing in size with each passing moment that it’s in your hands, which are also exponentially increasing in perspiration.

“Fu*k!” you say to yourself, asking why the notion of ordering wine has become such a conundrum. You think back on all your juvenile moments of raiding your parents’ wine cabinet, simply adhering to the steadfast principal of white for summer and red for winter. Adulthood has not only brought with it the perils of dating and self-discovery but also the vagaries of beverage and wine satisfaction.

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The good news is that you no longer have to suffer the trials and tribulations of wine selection. The above situation no longer has to happen to you. Follow these pointers next time you’re in a jam en route to your meteoric rise from hopeless zero to wine hero.

  1. Ask the server or sommelier what he or she is jazzed about these days. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the effort and thought they put into answering your question when they’re asked to geek out about something they love. Giving your server complete control of what you’ll drink is the best way to hedge your bets. Your casual convo with the service staff will also show your date that you’re a “man of the people” – engaging and worldly.
  2. Tell the waiter or sommelier the types of wine you typically enjoy. Throw out a price range to help bridge the gap. Trust me, this is incredibly helpful to the server. It’s your server’s job to ensure you are pleased with your wine no matter the price and giving them a range helps them do that. Also, talk about whether you enjoy wines that are light-bodied, full-bodied, fruity, dry, oaky, etc.
  3. Think about what you plan to order and ask your waiter to help you select a wine that complements it well. It can be white, red, sparkling, rosé, whatever; but just avoid the disastrous occasion of having either the wine or the food overpowering the other.
  4. Ask your date what they like to drink. Pleasing others through the selection of wine is the most selfless thing one can do, and remember to keep firmly in mind that “the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
  5. Lastly, and without guarantee, go for something totally random and out of left field. Look for those wines from Lebanon, Romania, China, Russia, and wherever else you never thought they produced wine. Give ‘em a shot and let the mystery of wine take you to new places, new flavors, and without fail – to second dates.

Dan Amatuzzi is a wine and spirits professional and the beverage director at Eataly in NYC. His website,, is a blog based on wine appreciation and education. He holds a MBA degree from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at NYU and is an adjunct professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU. His latest publication, How to Host a Wine Tasting Party: The Complete Kit (Race Point Publishing), is now available.