How to Order Wine in a Restaurant

As you learn about your own wine preferences and get to know some new things about wine itself, the process of ordering a bottle at a restaurant can be scary. If you’re at an upscale place, the list could be pretty long and might be overwhelming.

Here’s the thing: every wine lover has to start somewhere, and we’re here to help with that. Here are some basic tips for ordering wine in a restaurant that may ease some of that list-related stress.


  • Know how much you want to spend. Sure, this seems pretty obvious but it’s easy to get overwhelmed once you’re in the restaurant and the waiter is staring down at you waiting for your selection. There are plenty of bottles for everyone (as long as it’s a good restaurant) so there will be something on the list that suits you.
  • Decide on red or white, and the region. If you’re in an Italian restaurant, you probably want to go with something red as that’s what the Italians are known for. If you’re in an American restaurant with a variety of menu items, think more about what you intend to eat and the varietal that will complement that dish the best.

PRO-TIP: Avoid the house wine. Honestly, it’s probably palatable but if you’re there for a quality experience, don’t waste your time on it just to say you had a glass of wine. 

  • Know your pairings. Although you may not have decided the exact dish you’ll be ordering, you probably have a good idea of what you’ll eat on a basic level- meat, fish, or veggies. Remember your basic pairing guide to help guide your selection towards something that will pair nicely with what you order.
  • Consider markup. It’s that age-old enemy of the amateur wine lover- we all know it’s there. Fun fact: the second cheapest bottle on the list isn’t actually the best deal. If you can, look for something that’s a little higher on the price scale, as that will be the most economical choice. The cheapest bottles have probably been marked up two or three times in order to be on par with the restaurant’s list, so the ones more towards the middle may be closer to their actual price.


  • Get out of your comfort zone! Sure, you know you love a good Cabernet Sauvignon, and you even see your favorite winery on the list, but this is your chance to experience something new. The wines on this list have been purposefully selected by the restaurant’s somm or beverage managers so they are all meant to be a great choice for your meal there. Try something that you wouldn’t have found otherwise!
  • ASK. Yep, it’s that simple. Just ask! Your waitress should have enough knowledge to help you select a wine based on your tastes, and if not, there is probably a sommelier on staff if it’s an upscale establishment. These people are being paid to make sure you have the best culinary experience possible- use them to your advantage!

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