Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Soapbox: Somm tips on ordering wine

Published:  21 November, 2023

Aulis’s Charles Carron Brown irons out the mistakes commonly made in approaching a somm, helping to bag the wine a diner wants, rather than the one the somm wants them to drink.

It's safe to say that the idea of having a ‘wine professional’ approach your table and help you choose some vino to go alongside your meal in a restaurant can be quite a daunting prospect for many people in this day and age.

One often wonders: ‘Is the sommelier going to try to sell me some stupidly expensive bottle of wine that they can then gloat about to their mates or post endless pictures of via social media? Or is the sommelier actually interested in my experience, and do they want to enhance it through their knowledge of wine and how it can enlighten a dish and make our meal even more memorable?’

Having been in the restaurant world for 14 years now I’ve seen many people make mistakes when it comes to dealing with sommeliers at the table, and it’s about time that we laid some myths to bed.

Before you arrive at the restaurant, feel free to ask for a wine list/drinks list.

Remember that the experience belongs to the guest, not the other way around. While we (as restaurateurs) are custodians of that experience, it always should be the guest who is driving it. If a guest wants to see the wine list beforehand, or to pre-order some wine, that’s fantastic.

Please don’t move the glass we’ve placed in front of you, we’ve put it there for a reason.

When a sommelier places a glass in front of you to pour a glass or bottle of wine, please don’t go and move it as if we can’t reach the place we’ve put it, or we’ve made a mistake (as if!).

Never be afraid to ask questions.

All we want as wine professionals is to make sure you have a good time. We love nothing more than being put on the spot and asked lots of questions relating to a specific wine or region – or any form of beverage, to be honest. We get a real buzz out of it. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Remember that dining out is supposed to be fun.

When you break it down, all that’s really happening in a restaurant is that you’re being offered some food and a beverage in an environment where you can relax and forget about what’s happening in the world around you for a few hours. At Aulis we offer an experience for 12 guests every evening, which starts in our lounge area, then moves through to the main table where guests share the space for the main part of the meal. Many end up chatting to one another, getting involved in the discussion about a given dish or beverage being offered. The team and I get a real buzz out of it.

If you’re not enjoying the wine, please let us know.

I’ve seen this a few times, where a guest is having a glass of wine and halfway through they’re like: ‘You know what, I’m not so sure about this, but I don’t want to say anything as I don’t want to cause a fuss.’

Please, please let us know if you’re not enjoying a particular aspect of your experience. If it’s a glass of wine you’re not enjoying, then we can get you something else. It’s no issue to us at all. What’s important is that you’re having a great time with a glass of wine that you feel comfortable with and are liking.

Never be afraid of ordering the wine that you want to drink, not what the sommelier wants you to have.

Browsing through a wine list in a restaurant can be a fun, and daunting experience. Sometimes the wine list can be massive, sometimes small.

Never feel like you can’t order the wine you want to drink, regardless of price. If it’s the entry-level price point or something greater, it shouldn’t impact on the experience you have.

Overall, remember that the experience your guests have reflects on you as a sommelier and the restaurant as a whole. Dining out should be an enjoyable and wholesome thing to do, and the part of a sommelier should be to assist, guide and enhance that guest experience.