Dish of the Day: How to order wine like a pro

Joanna Travis
wine getty 300x225 Dish of the Day: How to order wine like a pro

(Getty Images)

How do you feel when the waiter hands you a wine list in a restaurant? A rush of joy? Or like most people, like you’ve been handed your friend’s troublesome baby to look after for the duration of the meal? For most it can feel like a responsibility they don’t want or need.

Not all wine lists are born equal. Some are slim fillets on one half-side of A4 others a big leather-bound things making your knees go numb. But the likelihood is that whether big or small, the list will contain information you’re not familiar.

Is the information worth trying to decipher? Definitely. Because a memorable wine can make a memorable meal and also mean you don’t get ripped off. There is also the embarrassment factor: it can be bloody awkward if you don’t know how to read the menu and you end up ordering the “2001 Languedoc, please” when there are three on the menu and the server hasn’t a clue which you mean.

So below is a brief guide to knowing what’s what on a menu.

First of all to note is that it is a lot simpler if you’re dealing with new world wines.

See below:

2009, Malbec, Bodega Cecchin, Mendoza, Argentina

What this is telling you is the following: It was harvested in 2009; the grape varietal is Malbec (more about varietals in the future); the producer is Bodega Cecchin; and it is from Mendoza in Argentina

So if you want to order this and there is more than one choice of Malbec, the easiest way to identify it is to say: “I’d like the Bodega Cecchin, 2009, Malbec please”.

Old world entries are often presented differently. Take the below, for example:

2010 Maury, Vintage Rouge, Domaine de Fagayra – Roussillon

Again the date of the harvest comes first: 2010; but instead of a grape varietal you get the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (basically the rules of production for this area of Rouissillon; more on this later, too), Maury; then the fact it is a red vintage; it is bottled on the estate de Fagayra (Domaine loosely meaning that) ; and its region is Rouissillon

So here with the Appellation d’origine contrôlée listed, to order, just say: “ the 2010 Maury, please.”

So there you go. Now you have the cheater’s guide to ordering.

Next week: learning about grape varieties

Joanna is general manager of Mr Buckley’s in Hackney

Follow her on Twitter @MrBuckleys and visit

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  • Preacain

    I dont know why anyone would like to order wine like a pro!
    I drink wine regularly with friends when we meet up to discuss our personal tastes and preferences for various wines from distinct regions of Spain, one of my friends is a qualified sumiller and is surprised that I without any training i have a great set of tastebuds and a great nose along with new ways to describe the aromas ect, the simple fact is I like what I like not what os expexted of me and along with being a gardener have a great range of plant and earth aromas in my memory circuits to describe the properties of wines , I dont take my talent seriously but I do engoy a good wine angd good food in good company!

  • Blair

    I feel that I need to have a bankers salary to be able to afford the absurd cost of wine in a restaurant.The mark up is outrageous so my chice is somewhat limited.

  • gelert

    Joanna Travis

    Dish of the day

    Shome mishtake,shurely ?

  • Pauline Laroche

    It has got to be the most ridiculous and patronising article ever!!

  • Jack

    What is this drivel?

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