The One Thing You Shouldn’t Do When Ordering Wine, According to Our Sommelier

This came as a total surprise.

Related To:


Photo by: AsiaVision


Let’s set the scene for a minute. You’ve snagged a reservation at that cute restaurant in town. The ambiance is certainly charming (must be the bud vases and mid-century modern brass accents). The local Amish chicken under the brick is calling everyone’s name and the wine menu — a one-pager printed on thick card stock — feels curated so it's not overwhelming.

We urge you to take a closer look at the wine menu. It may very well include the producer, name, region and price of each wine. But does it list a year too? Food Network’s resident sommelier and culinary producer Dana Beninati says she often sees wine menus without vintages (that’s the term for the year on the bottle — when the grapes were harvested).

And she says that you should think twice about ordering wine from a menu that omits vintages.

Photo by: Megan L.C. McNally

Megan L.C. McNally

Beninati, a Level 3 sommelier (pictured sipping a goblet of vino above) explains why: "Seeing 'Pinot Noir' on a wine menu is like reading a dinner menu and just seeing 'burger.' Does it come with cheese?" she says. "It’s like going into a shoe store and seeing shoes without sizes. I know I always like black pumps, but if it’s not a size 10, I’m not going to buy it."

While the average diner may not be familiar with different vintages, an expert will know if it’s a good, bad or meh year. So you if see the years, you can assume that the restaurant's wine director is taking care in what they purchase, and their staff is likely trained to help you decide what you might like. No years on a menu most likely means the restaurant is buying many different vintages — and maybe the lower quality ones to save money.

But moreover, if there’s a lack of attention to detail on the wine list, the same laxness probably carries over to handling the wine. The restaurant could be storing it incorrectly in warm temperatures or rotating it wrong. Beninati says: "I always tell my friends that wine bottles need to be in the same kind of place you like to be when you have a migraine. Laid out in a cool, dark place!"

If you find yourself in such an establishment, don’t panic. There’s always beer. Kidding (sort of). But a great bet is to order rosé or a sparkling wine; they typically wouldn’t have a vintage listed next to them because they’re usually not aged. For more wine tips, check out Dana's classes on the new Food Network Kitchen app.

Related Links:

Next Up

How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Corkscrew

This goes out to anyone who’s ever broken a cork.

10 Black Female-Owned Wines You Need to Try

Add these bottles to your next celebration.

How to Find Sweet Red Wine

Find out what "sweet" really means when it comes to red wines, and how to find one that fits your palate.

What's the Best Type of White Wine for Cooking?

Does the type of white wine you choose really matter? Food Network’s resident sommelier weighs in.

How to Gift the Perfect Wine to Absolutely Anyone

Pro tip: When in doubt, bring bubbles.

This Is My Favorite Wine to Gift for the Holidays

Open it with the meal or save it for a special occasion.

The One Thing You Should Always Do When Making Fried Eggs

High heat (not low heat) is best. Here’s why.

Snoop Dogg Drops a New Sparkling Wine (With a Label That Apparently Raps)

With Snoop Cali Gold, the rap icon says he was aiming for "something cool with that O.G. party vibe."

How Josh – The Wine the Internet Can’t Stop Meme-ing About – Got Its Name

Funnily enough, the wine’s namesake’s real name wasn’t even Josh.