The all-important second bottle of wine

By , 20 February 2012

From the January/February issue of GQ: You’re at a restaurant, table of four, the first bottle down the hatch. And very nice it was, too. The waiter approaches and says “Same again?” What should you do?

If you’re at your favourite Portuguese joint eating peri-peri chicken with your fingers then another bottle of the light, fresh Vinho Verde you originally ordered is probably the sensible solution.

However, let’s presume you’re in a more up-market establishment where the wine list has been put together with love and care. Here drinking the same wine throughout the meal is spectacularly unadventurous, about as lacking in imagination as Pieter de Villiers’ game plan for the Springboks since 2007.

If you’re going to adopt a high risk, high reward strategy to ordering wine in a restaurant, there are a few issues that need to be resolved. First, you must determine how much you would like to spend. If it’s a business lunch and you’re the host, this is your prerogative. Consider, though, that if you only order the big-ticket items, your guests might end up viewing you as a bit of a wide boy. Should there be a sommelier on hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to discreetly inform him how much you would like to spend without announcing it to the table. If it’s a social occasion and you’re going to split the bill, best to consult with the others otherwise there might be some acrimony when it comes to time to pay.

The main reason for not sticking with the same old throughout the meal is that some wines pair better with certain dishes than others: a zesty Sauvignon Blanc is magic with a goats’ cheese salad but not so great with Osso Bucco; a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon is brilliant with a rare T-bone but entirely inappropriate with grilled prawns.

It gets complicated when the guys are ordering 600g portions of animal protein and the girls are having the line fish. Here, a lightly wooded Chardonnay (white) or a Pinot Noir (red) can be recommended on account of their ability to pair well with almost anything. Another option is to order wine by the glass, each member of the table choosing what will work with his or her particular dish.

As for ordering a third bottle for a table of four, by all means. Just make sure that everybody at the table orders taxis, too.


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