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Wine in a restaurant


At home I decant wine and leave for several hours before drinking with a meal. In a restaurant wines are normally opened at the time of purchase and dont have time in a mature in a decanted state. Therefore whats the point bying an expensive wine to drink with a meal . Maybe its best to buy the cheapest wine in the list.


Many people call ahead and have the wine decanted hours before turning up .


Or consider by the glass, which will have at least been open a little while (or possibly too long!).

(@leah beat me too it with the other half of what I was going to say. I’ve only ever done that with BYO though).


Part of the role of a good Sommelier will be to try and aerate the wine sufficiently. I also once tried wine that had been through one of these, that I understand some restaurants have:



…buy champagne / sparkling wine to whet your appetite while your choice of claret (etc) is breathing.


Unfortunately I can rarely afford the level of wine I like in a restaurant; the mark ups are just too high. Consequently I usually buy cheaper wines in a restaurant. Also restaurant eating is, for me, usually a very social occasion and after the first taste I’m not sure I fully appreciate a more expensive wine as conversation takes over.


I agree there is no point buying a bottle which needs to breath several hours beforehand, and until you see the menu you wont know what you are eating with the wine in anyway. Unless one is ‘fine dining’ (not something I do, for £50+ a head I would rather cook at home and have my own exceptional wine/s lovingly cellared etc.)

Personally… if eating out I look for lighter undemanding wines to accompany the food, not overwhelm it - which does not mean boring: Cru Beaujolais, Alsace Pinot Gris, Oregon Pinot Noir etc.


A few things spring to mind. First, why would a restaurant buy a wine that needs a lot of time to breath unless they are catering for some key regular clients who already know the list and can pre order. For me it is a failure of the buyer although I do accept some cultures prefer their wine young and robust.

Second, I have enjoyed a wine or two that has evolved through the meal. Indeed, that added to the overall experience on those occasions. I have also asked for bottles to be decanted, not because I am worried about sediment but just thought they needed a bit more exposure to help them develop. I have had some odd looks from Sommeliers when I have asked for this for younger wines!

However, my pet hate is less about time to breath and more about the temperature of the bottle. I had a delightful Alma Negro Malbec in a local restaurant the other day that, despite an outside temperature nearing 40C, was served at around 17 or 18C. Equally, I have removed many an over chilled white from an ice bucket and hated reds that have stood under strong bar lights or next to heating systems.


A LOT of restaurants don’t give a passing thought to their wine list and quite frankly couldn’t care less unfortunately.

Quite often younger wines are precisely the ones that do need that extra exposure to oxygen to help soften the tannins or help them to integrate a little better with the fruit.
A somm who doesn’t understand this sounds like they need to learn a thing or two.


I think lots of restaurants assume (not incorrectly) that most punters won’t realise the wines are far too young. You can achieve quite a lot by getting it decanted as soon as you order, so it has time while you eat starters and drink Champagne/white wine.


If I’m going to a really good restaurant with my other half, I’ll now think about bringing my own bottle of wine. That also means I can open it in advance if needed.

Even taking into account the corkage costs it works out far better value than buying something decent off the wine list and I really don’t want to have a great meal and pay a ridiculous price for an average bottle of wine.

At our anniversary dinner recently, I brought a bottle of 2009 La Lagune with me. I think it cost me just under £100 to drink it there including the corkage fee.

An equivalent bottle off the list would have been over £200, which I never would have spent.

Nor would I have spent £100 for a wine from the list, as that would have been pretty poor value for money with the mark up so I would probably have bought something at around £60 that would have a retail price of £15-£20.

I had a couple of bottles of La Lagune sitting at home waiting for a special occasion so the corkage fee was money well spent.