Ryan Du Plessis | Create Your Badge


To begin with when a restaurant insist that the old wine on the wine list is better and therefore worthy of an exorbitant price, look again. Old is not necessarily better; nor always very good. As a rule do not go for the cheapest because the quality is sometimes dodgy and the highest mark-ups are on them. Be careful to order the house wine or the wine by the carafe,Make sure you have tasted it to see what the quality is like.Just spend a little more money and more time on the wine-list and you will get a better wine for the price. Being treated fairly in the exchange for the wine on the wine list add to the experience and to the ambiance of the evening. You do not want to be ripped off.

Bringing your own bottle is a time – honored alternative to a weak wine list. Some good small places cant afford a big wine –list. Make sure with the restaurant in question if it is acceptable.To make the experience more enjoyable here are a few things that should be done. Here is some protocol you can follow.

  • Call ahead to find out if they allow corkage and what the corkage fee is.
  • That the wine you are bringing is something special that is not on the list.
  • That you are considering ordering another bottle from the list to maintain good will.
  • That you are a fairly regular client.
  • That you include a reasonable value for the wine you bring when calculating the tip at the end off the evening.

Every wine has a correct glass to use for drinking it. Here are some tips and ideas:

  • Clear glasses are the best, they allow one to appreciate and enjoy the wines colour.
  • Glasses that taper to the rim will capture the wines bouquet.
  • Very important! Don’t fill glasses to more than two thirds of their volume, even better do fill it just over one third full. The reason for that is that wine can become very hot or that you will lose the bouquet very quickly.
  • Use flutes for Champagne and for Sparkling wines. Normal glasses will lose the sparkle and bouquet very quickly.
  • On temperature, never over chill fine white wines (under 3ºC). It will destroy the flavour.
  • Serve Champagne and Sparkling Wines well chilled (5-7ºC) A good tip here is to have halve ice and then ad some water to the ice bucket. It will keep the Champagne and Sparkling wine nicely chilled because there is nothing worse than warm bubbly.
  • Serve white wines chilled (6-8ºC).
  • Red wines are traditionally served at room temperature, but be aware of a really hot climate. When a wine is too hot, all you will taste, is the alcohol and no fruit, no elegance, no structure. At lunch time or warm evenings I recommend you chill your wines slightly (10-12ºC). It is best to have your fine red wines at 15ºC and not more than 18ºC.

No rules, just the way you enjoy it.

Wine should be enjoyed in a relaxed manner. If you like to drink your wine as cold as possible, then go ahead and add ice cubes to your glass as many South Africans do. If you want to add soda water then do it. Wine should be served in a way that is most enjoyable to you, and not according to other’s rules. But if you want to experience the whole complexity of the wine, then you will of course not do it.

  • Here’s a little tip: Why don’t you freeze the left over wines in little ice cube trays and use it next time you are doing some cooking and need some wine stock. This way, you don’t throw wine away and add lots of flavour to the cooking process. Or, otherwise….just drink the wine that is left over!

When you go into a restaurant it is another ball game completely. What to do when you have people you want to impress (maybe the boss, potential client, whatever), is take control of the wine situation. This is the time when everyone is catching up on the latest news and start to relax, they should have something to drink in hand. Everybody is looking at the menu and the waiter can do his talk about the specials and all will listen. Some people would like to order the wine before the food while others want to order the food first and then order the wine. Here are just a few pointers of how to make this experience a much better one:

  • Ask for the Aperitif List before the Wine List or have a look at the Wine-by-the-Glass list. This way you save time and face in the situation.
  • Do not ask everybody what do they like, or hand them the Wine List to look at, this is no time for a Democracy! Instead ask them what food they will be eating, then you can choose to order 2 or 3 wines and have them opened at the same time. This way people can choose between white or red.
  • Not all wine lists are are listed with the varietals first, but it helps. Ask the manager or wine waiter for his recommendation, they are there to help. A good wine waiter/Sommelier will know which wines to pair with which food. You still have the prerogative to decide if you are going to take there recommendation or not.

Now that you saved the situation and face, everyone has a glass in hand, you also opened the floor for new discussions about wine and can share your knowledge with your guests.

When the waiter brings the wine to the table check that the temperature of the bottle. This is very important as some places keep their wines below the required temperature. Do not hesitate to ask for another bottle that is closer to the correct temperature because it will effect your experience at the table guaranteed. Check the label. Is it the one you ordered? And is it the correct vintage? If you do not like the vintage that is available ask for the Wine List again and choose something different.

It is very important is that the waiter open the bottle that you ordered at your table. He will pour a little bit in your glass for you to taste. Now you can apply the techniques that we taught you in order to know if this wine is good or not. Swirl the glass with the wine in it and sniff it, it does not matter if you have never tasted it before. You are checking it for faults. It should smell clean and sound. Then taste it. If it is good, you can tell the waiter to go ahead and pour for everybody.

What happens if it is not good? Don’t throw your weight around and spoil the event for everyoney. Just say, ‘I think we have a problem here, the wine smells very musty?’ Not eveone is going to accept your bottle back. Insist on the wine waiter to taste it himself or ask the manager to the table. Just be courteous. Remember, you are the customer and don’t have to stay, or you don’t have to give a tip at the end of the evening. The power of you as the consumer is very big. Always be polite even if it feels like you want to explode and do harm to somebody.

Mistakes happen. Do not write a place off because off one experience, inform them off the problem that you had before and that you want them to make sure they will take care off you this time.

In the wine is the
– personality
– passion
– philosophy
– earth
– culture (social)
– wine maker (science)

and I create the link between the wine maker and the consumer, an experience which let them fall in love with the wine…

moments of experiences

As a self-confessed lover of all things cultural, I dedicate my time to hone my already vast knowledge and experience of wine and its enjoyment. My passion for people and commitment to service excellence, together with my expertise in this very specialised field, makes me one of a few professional Sommeliers in South Africa. Apart from having the academic background gained through several selected courses at the Cape Wine Academy, Elsenburg and the University of Stellenbosch Business School, I believe in developing personal relationships with Wine Makers and Estate Owners in order to understand the philosophy and emotive drive behind the product. I have a deep love for my country and enjoy nothing more than to enthrall guests with stories about the country’s history, wine, food, culture and politics.

For me, a visit to South Africa is more than having a nice bed, good food and beautiful views, it is about people relationships and the experience thereof.