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Ordering wine at a restaurant can be a richly rewarding experience. Wine can complement your meal, taking your enjoyment to new levels. But, if the wine you receive fails to meet proper standards, the purchase will backfire, causing you much irritation and distress. Fortunately, there are a few easy steps to testing the wine that you have been brought, to make sure it lives up to your expectations.

Ordering the right bottle

While conventional wisdom tells us that red wines are for red meat and tomato sauces and white wines are for lighter fare, when choosing wine you should take more into account that just this out-dated and simplistic rule. Always choose wine based upon your personal tastes. Any wine list should give an indication of what flavors the wine will hold-do not purchase something that you do not expect to enjoy, regardless of what you are eating. If you're unsure, you can always ask the waiter-often (and especially in a nicer restaurant) a waiter can offer you excellent advice in choosing a nice bottle. If you're totally unsure and don't trust the waiter, however, drinking a white wine with 'lighter' foods and red wine with 'heartier' fare is a reasonable rule of thumb.

Smelling the cork

Some people advise that one should not smell the cork from a bottle of wine. The claim is that little information is thereby imparted. While it is true that in depth specifics are difficult to discern for the novice, even a beginner will be able to detect the odor of mold, which is a tip off that the bottle has not be well cared for. Should the waiter ask, or proffer the cork, take it (make sure that it's been removed from the corkscrew) and examine it. It should be free from mold, but it should not be cracked and dried out. Gently sniff the end, which has been in contact with the wine. If the cork smells moldy, your wine may have gone bad.

Ask for a taste

This is the most important step and should never be omitted. If a waiter does not offer you a sample, request it. He should pour no more than one third of a glass for you, which you will then use to base your acceptance or refusal of the wine. Take the glass and swirl it around, causing the wine itself to swirl gently. This will release the wine's aroma for your examination.

Inhale

Before you actually drink the wine, bring the glass to your nose and take a deep whiff. Ideally, the bouquet of aromas will require several seconds to truly sink in. Notice how some flavors will be immediately apparent, while others will not register for a bit longer. The more distinct flavors you discern, the better the wine. Be on the lookout for musty or moldy odors, especially if the cork was suspect.

Drink

After you have examined the wine's "nose," it is time to actually taste it. Sip it gently into your mouth, allowing the aroma to waft up into your nose as you take the wine into your mouth. Do not swallow right away. Give yourself a chance to appreciate the full register of flavors.

Decision time

It's time to give the waiter your decision. Do not confuse a wine, which isn't particularly good, with one, which is spoiled. Although it may not be perfect, enjoy a wine for what it is. If, however, the wine tastes moldy or musty, feel free to refuse it. Wine servers understand that this happens from time to time, and they should do their best to make you happy. If a waiter gives you a hard time regarding your decision, ask to see the wine steward or (if they do not have one) a manager. This is well within your rights, so do not balk at it. If the wine has gone bad, you should not have to pay for it. The steward or manager will know this.

Most likely, you'll never have to refuse a bottle of wine from a restaurant. Wine does not spoil easily, as long as it is properly cared for. So, when you sit down to a nice meal and wish to order a bottle of wine to complement it, be assured that your satisfaction is guaranteed. Drink a toast to your friends and family and enjoy your dining experience. There isn't much to beat it.

Let's recap:

1) Order a bottle
2) Examine the cork
3) Request a taste
4) Examine the wine's "nose"
5) Taste the sample
6) Accept or refuse the wine
7) Have a lovely meal