How To Order From A Wine List Like A Connoisseur

Sarah Limacher

Wine Expert

Selecting wine can be a daunting task and all too often I can sense the fear in peoples faces!

Wine should be fun and so should choosing a great drop. We are blessed and spoilt for choice with so many great lists here in Sydney and across Australia, so it can be rewarding to take the plunge and be a little daring, rather than reverting to that same old boring bottle of sav. If you’re looking to be more adventurous, and impress some friends while you’re at it, read on to discover how to order from a wine list like a pro.


1. Go bubbly

If you are hosting, kick off with a bottle of bubbles for the table Whether its a gorgeous bottle of champagne, a fun and frivolous bottle of Prosecco, or a lovely Aussie sparkler, bubbles always set a great tone for the night, sets everyone at ease, and gets the conversation flowing. It also gives you more time to peruse the list.

2. Take charge

Hosting a large group? Take charge. If you ask every single person what they like, you will be there forever and become quickly overwhelmed. To start with, grab a nice easy drinking white like a Hunter Valley Semillon, Clare Valley Riesling or Pinot Grigio, and a light and fresh red like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or Gamay. Once food is ordered, you can order heavier wines as the meal progresses.

3. Just ask

Ask the staff and ask the sommelier! People can sometimes feel intimidated asking for help, but good sommeliers should guide you through the list professionally, unpretentiously, and find you something perfect regardless of how much you want to spend. They should make you feel relaxed and at ease. If you encounter the dreaded snobby sommelier, don’t waste another second in their venue. Sommeliers create lists to specifically suit their venue’s food, atmosphere and guests. They are the best people to ask as they know the list better than anyone. I always give the sommelier the choice; let them know what you usually like to drink and how much you want to spend and just sit back and relax Perfect!

4. Ask for a taste

Good wine bars and restaurants are usually more than happy to offer tastes of their wines by the glass, in case you are tossing up between a few options or haven’t tried something before.

5. Be adventurous

Wearing the same outfit every day is boring, listening to the same song on repeat is boring, eating the same thing for dinner every night is boring, and so is drinking the same wine! Mix it up and have some fun. Of course we all have our classics that we know and love, but whenever I go out I try and order something I have never heard of before. There are approximately 10,000 different grape varieties in the world; go exploring!

6. Go regional

Eating Spanish tapas like anchovies, sardines and salted almonds? Have a sherry! Eating beautiful sashimi and sushi? Try Sake! Eating Venison loin from New Zealand? Grab a bottle of Kiwi Pinot! Match your foods to their native grape.

Things to remember :

– A taste is poured for the host to check if the wine is free of faults such as cork taint or oxidisation. A quick swirl and sniff is usually sufficient to see whether or not you and the entire table like the taste. If you are not sure or really unhappy with a wine have a chat with the sommelier quietly and let them know.

– As tempting as it can be on particular days, fill your glass just under half way, not to the brim! That way you will have a cold glass of white all night and room to give wines a bit of a swirl.

– Good glassware makes the experience even better.

– Have fun and don’t take it too seriously!


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