Dining Out

68. If you'd like to bring a bottle (or two) of wine to a restaurant, be sure to call ahead and inquire about the corkage policy. A reasonable corkage fee is $10 or less per bottle.

69. In restaurants that allow patrons to bring in their own wine, be sure to increase your tip to cover the added service and encourage the policy.

70. Offer your server a taste of the wine you bring in. It's a polite gesture, and often results in better service.

71. When perusing a restaurant's wine list, be wary if vintages are not listed. Be sure to verify the vintage of your selection before the server opens it for you.

72. If those in your party can't reach consensus on a single bottle of wine, see if the restaurant stocks half-bottles or serves wines by the glass. There is no "rule" that says a party must order a full-sized bottle of wine.

73. Restaurants with lengthy wine lists typically employ a wine steward to manage it. Don't be shy about asking this person for guidance in selecting a bottle. However, should they recommend the most expensive bottle in a category without discussion, they're probably more concerned with the restaurant's bottom line than your enjoyment. The old axiom applies: Buyer beware. That said, a vast majority of wine stewards are genuinely interested in helping you select a bottle (or half-bottle, or glass) of wine that will enhance your meal.

74. When all else fails, a fairly reliable way of selecting a bottle from a particular category is to choose one that falls in the middle of the category's price range.

75. When the server offers you the cork to smell after opening a bottle, do nothing. Smelling the cork will tell you nothing about the quality of the wine. (You may want to look at it for possible breakage or chipping, which could be a sign that the seal was compromised.) But it's the wine - not the cork - that's important, so swirl the wine in your glass and smell it. A wine should be declined only when it's defective - i.e., when it has a wet cardboard-like or musty aroma (commonly referred to as being "corked").

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