Ordering wine in a restaurant can be an intimidating and potentially embarrassing experience, akin to the fear of being chosen last for a pick-up cricket game or not being asked to dance at the varsity “sokkie”.
An informative wine list will tell you the type of wine, the producer of the wine, where the grapes were grown (though with some wines that is inherent in the name) and the year of production (vintage). Since there can be considerable variation in vintages, especially with single varietal wines, or the wine may be just too young, this is important information.
If the wine list doesn’t say, ask! If the waiter won’t or can’t tell you, have them bring the bottle and reject it if it doesn’t suit your requirements. Do not be seduced by the process.
If they bring a much younger wine than is listed, odds are it isn’t worth the price on the menu. Ask for a price reduction. If they won’t, tell them to forget it and decide on another wine.
Remember, most restaurants use wine as a profit centre hence the often atrociously high prices. If possible, take your own wine with you, but be careful of the rip-off artists who charge ridiculous corkage fees, and when challenged, come up with the lamest of excuses and justification.
A reasonable corkage in a family style restaurant or informal eatery is between R25 and R30, and between R40 and R45 for a fine dining venue. Anything more and you’re being ripped off!
And always remember, a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine!