How to Order Wine in One Sentence — Outsmarting Wine

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You won't find me wearing a bowtie or a tweedy jacket. I don’t speak with a lilting English accent or raise a pinky when I drink. In other words, I don’t look like the prototypical wine expert. This is good news for you, because I don’t get special treatment in restaurants; in fact, you might say I have a front-row seat to the nerve center of wine anxiety. The idea that we’re supposed to make the right choice from a long list of foreign names, years and prices — and do so in the stolen moments of glancing down at a wine list — is a game for Don Quixote.

Assuming that your server or sommelier seems informed, here are three ways to stack the deck in your favor by ordering wine with just one sentence.

Ask for a wine with some personality: Many wines are disappointing if only for their predictable, sleep-inducing character, offering the kind of watered-down tonic that only a Real Housewife could get excited about. But if you request a “wine with personality” from someone in-the-know, you may find yourself sitting with a glass of intrigue and discovery.

Ask: What does the chef drink when he or she is off-duty? It is usually something interesting and gentle on the wallet.

Fill in the blanks: Compose a Mad Libs-style question specifying your desired color (red or white), weight (light or rich) and price (modest or expense account). One sentence is often enough to unzip a suitcase of potential oohs and ahs from a wine-passionate server.

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