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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wine-ordering tips to impress your guests

By Tiana Kahakauwila

You're on a first date, at a business dinner, or meeting your future in-laws for the first time, and the waiter hands you the wine list. Next thing you know, your boss is complimenting your confidence or your fianc 's grandmother is praising your culture and poise.

Now is not the time to tell them you prefer beer.

Not to worry. Just remember these tips, and you'll order a wine that pleases your guests, your palate, and your pocketbook.

1. Always ask for preferences.

Does your date enjoy reds? Does Grandma prefer French wines? Narrow down your options by focusing on wines that your guests already like. Not only is the decision-making now easier for you, but your dining partners will appreciate that you're taking care of them.

2. Never give them what they think they want.

Just because your companions' preferences can help narrow down the wine options, doesn't mean you order within their comfort zone. Instead, try to expand their wine knowledge by suggesting something new. A cabernet drinker likes big, full reds, so a petite sirah or mourv[0xe8]dre blend is a good substitute. Lovers of Tuscany are likely to enjoy a bottle from Spain or a lesser-known Italian varietal, such as aglianico.

3. Order for the food.

If you're having trouble pleasing everyone's palate, order for the food rather than the guests. Is the meal heavy, with rich sauces? Then choose a full-bodied wine. Are most of the dishes delicate, such as sushi? Then a light wine is appropriate. Safe bets for a variety of dishes include full-bodied whites, such as viognier or gewurtztraminer, and lighter reds with earth notes, such as carmen[0xe8]re and sangiovese.

4. Taste by the glass; order by the bottle.

Order by the glass if you want to sample different wines. But order by the bottle for all other reasons. For starters, a bottle is less costly than the same amount of wine served by the glass. (A bottle is equivalent to about five glasses of wine, but typically priced to equal the cost of three glasses.) Moreover, wine served from the bottle evolves over the course of a meal, opening slowly and showing new scents and flavors as the night wears on.

5. Enlist the wine steward.

A wine steward can help satisfy your palate and pocketbook. Ask the steward, "Can you suggest something in this range?" and point to a price on the wine list that fits your budget.

A good steward can use this information to find an off-beat wine within a price range you like. And, because you pointed out the price rather than said it aloud, no one else at the table knows how much you're spending.

Also, ask the wine steward if there's something special off the menu. New arrivals and low stocks might mean bottles that don't appear on the regular list. If you inquire, you might end up drinking from this secret stash.

If all else fails? Sure, go ahead and order the beer. But Grandma is not impressed.