7 tips for ordering wine at a business meal

Imagine having a business dinner with clients when, suddenly, you are handed the wine list and you are asked to make a selection. What should you do? Should I let the guests pick the wine? How exactly does one order the perfect bottle of wine?

Here are some tips for ordering wine so you don’t feel uncomfortable making a selection:

1. Stay humble

If you aren’t much of a wine connoisseur, don’t pretend to be one because then you’ll look silly.


Instead, do your research before the meal and read through this article.

Tips for ordering wine - stay humble

2. Learn the basics

You will make a better choice if you know something about the product. There are many books and websites with lots of information about wine. You can take a class or attend a workshop to learn the basics. The general guideline is that white wine is served with fish and poultry and red wine with meat, but there are numerous exceptions.

Tips for ordering wine - learn some basics

3. Check the wine list ahead of time

Many restaurants post their wine lists on their websites. Pick a few bottles and research those. Though not all restaurants have prices on their website wine list, your research will give you a general idea of the price range for a wine. Keep in mind, however, that restaurants mark up the price.

Tips for ordering wine - research

4. If you are the host, you are in charge of the wine selection

As mentioned above, knowing a little about wine will make your decision easier. You can ask the sommelier to recommend some wines. Most of them are very knowledgeable and will be happy to pair your food choices with wine. Just make sure you are clear about the price!

Tips for ordering wine - host

5. Don’t tell the sommelier how much you want to spend on the wine

Just ask the sommelier for a recommendation and point to a price range on the wine list, he will then know to stick within that price point. You can give the sommelier your price range by pointing at a price on the list and saying something like, “I was looking for something like this.”

Tips for ordering wine - price range

6. Know your budget

Have a general idea about what you want to spend before you go to the restaurant. There are many good, reasonably priced wines to be found.  And remember that the most expensive bottle on the list is not always the best.  If you are celebrating a big occasion, or your guest loves a certain wine, you may choose to increase your budget. 

Tips for ordering wine - know your budget

7. Taste the wine

The sommelier will present the bottle’s label for your review and then pour a small amount of wine into your glass. You should taste the wine and (usually) nod approval. Send the wine back only if it is spoiled. If you smell anything that is reminiscent of wet newspaper or a wet dog, there’s a chance the wine is corked. If you think the wine is corked, politely mention to your server that you think the wine may be corked, and ask them to taste it as well. In any situation involving sending back wine, the key thing to remember is to be polite and kind.

Tips for ordering wine - taste the wine


Regardless of the wine chosen, or whether you are the host or the guest, do not drink too much. Drink wisely!


Source: Barbara Pachter, The Essentials of Business Etiquette  (Available at PageOne)

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