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

This came as a total surprise.

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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.

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