How To Taste Wine In A Restaurant Without Looking Like A Wanker

Surely a Stelvin top means you can't send it back?

02/09/2016 2:30 PM AEST | Updated 02/09/2016 7:29 PM AEST
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Smoking before tasting is a big no-no.

Unless you're a some kind of booze wizard or sommelier, tasting wine at a fine dining establishment can be a high time for anxiety.

Do you have to smell it first? Is there a need to swirl? Will the waiter spit in your entree if you send it back?

James Evers, chief winemaker at Nepenthe Wines said there is much debate around the topic which isn't helped by the vast amount of ways one can taste wine.

"Traditionally you would try before you buy for the sole reason of ensuring the bottle wasn't contaminated with cork taint," Evers told The Huffington Post Australia. Though with more and more restaurants opting for Stelvin closure (screw cap) over cork, Evers said nowadays simply smelling the wine should be enough.


Lionel Richard, sommelier and co-owner of French restaurant Bistrot Gavroche agrees if a wine bottle doesn't have a cork there is no need for guests to taste, however explains his establishment opts to invite guests to taste purely to keep the tradition alive.

"We, the French, love traditions and believe it is always better to try the wine first -- whether cork or screw cap," Richard told HuffPost Australia.

So is there a correct way to taste wine? The short answer is there are many, and all of which focus on swirling to release the aromas, smelling and finally having a few sips.

"Firstly, eat something and then cleanse your mouth with some water to avoid wrong judgement," Richard said.

"Once a bit of wine is poured in the glass, smell it to take in the first impressions of the wine," Richard said.


Next comes the fun (and very important) bit -- the swirl.

"The swirl allows the wine to breathe and release the flavours. It develops the odour and allows you to have a better smell," Richard said.

Worried it'll spill over and ruin the white table cloth? You're not alone.


"The trick is to leave the glass on the table, place two fingers on the bottom of the foot of the glass and swivel it lightly," Richard said.

"This is important as some wines with a cork may taste corked, however this may only be due to it just being opened -- it might need time to breathe before being consumed -- this is especially the case with aged wines," Richard said.

Now for the tasting part.

"Take a few sips and turn the liquid around in your mouth to oxygenate the flavours."

"Finally, swallow and tell the waiter what you think," Richard said.

If you like it, great! But if you don't...

How not to taste wine (in a restaurant).

"In some ways, it isn't very polite to send a wine back if you do not like it, especially an expensive wine, as it has been opened just for you," Richard said.

However, if it is really not to your taste Richard recommends explaining this to the waiter and asking them to suggest something else.

"You can also ask the waiter to taste themselves if you find it strange or corked," Richard said.

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