1. If you have a wine list, hand it out. Don’t make people ask for it; just give it to ’em along with the menus.
2. While you’re handing out said wine list, don’t automatically give it to the gentleman at the table. I can tell you that I’m always the one who selects the wine, yet 9 times out of 10 I’m not the one who gets handed the list. For all of you servers out there, here are a few ways you can avoid making this mistake: make eye contact with all guests in the party and see who seems most eager to get the list, determine who the host of the party is and give the list to him/her, or simply put the list down on the table and leave it up for grabs.
3. Make people feel good about the wine they order. There’s no shame in looking for good value wines on a list, especially in this economy. I rarely order expensive bottles when I go out. Call me cheap, but I know how much that bottle really costs. If a guest asks for a recommendation, the server should point out wines at different price points and not just the expensive stuff. Now, as a diner, it’s always best to have an idea of what you’d like to spend before you ask for help to avoid any awkward moments with the server/sommelier/your guests.
4. Don’t try to trick people by offering a “house wine”, because there’s no such thing. All wine, whether white, red, sparkling or pink, is made by someone somewhere and unless you’re in a little trattoria in Italy, it’s doubtful that the wine was made on premises. Sure, some restaurants have wine specially made for them, but the producer/region/vintage should still be noted.
5. Train the people serving the wine so they know what they’re doing. Now, I don’t expect Court of Master Sommelier steps of service every time I go out to eat, but there’s not much worse than a server at a table who looks like she might drop the bottle or hurt herself in the process of opening it.
Here are a few other niceties to consider: offering a taste of a wine by the glass if someone’s not sure what to order, allowing someone to purchase just a 1/2 glass or letting 2 folks share a glass.
Keep in mind that great wine advice, especially when it comes to food and wine pairing, really makes for a memorable meal.