Going out for a night on the town in Spain can be a little daunting, especially if you are unsure how to order wine. Luckily, it's not as hard as it seems!
When you order wine in Spain, the person who asks for the wine is expected to drink it. So make sure you don't ask for the bottle unless you plan on finishing it yourself. In general, the people closest to the bottle will be expected to pay for it. So this is one situation where being picked last is definitely a good thing.
The first time you enter a restaurant or bar, expect to receive a glass of water and an alcohol-free beverage like Coca Cola or juice for children. After that, it's up to you! If you are thirsty and would like another drink, all you have to do is raise your hand and ask your waiter for more water or whatever other drink you would like. If you ask for another glass of wine, they will assume that everyone at your table wants another glass—and they will bring another bottle!
If you want to show that your glass is empty, just turn it upside down. Your waiter will come over and offer to refill whatever drink was inside.
When you’re on vacation in Spain, there are a few things to keep in mind when ordering wine:
The first thing to know is that the Spanish have different names for red and white wine that aren’t used elsewhere in the world. Red wine is called vino tinto and white wine is called vino blanco. Rosé, which is common in Spain, is called “rosado.”
For red wines, the most popular types are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Both of these come from the north of Spain, where they are aged in oak barrels. This makes them more complex than other reds, which are usually served young and fresh.
If you order a red that isn't very expensive, don't be surprised if it comes at room temperature or chilled—this is normal! Reds from this part of Spain are often served at room temperature or slightly chilled.
- Be prepared to wait. The waiter won’t bring the wine until you ask for it.
- Know what you want. Red, white, and rose are not enough to pinpoint the type of wine you want. You should specify if you want dry (seco) or sweet (dulce), young (joven) or old (crianza), strong (fuerte) or smooth (suave).
- Ask for suggestions – Most people can recommend a good wine to go with your meal if you simply ask them to.
- Order by the bottle - Don’t be surprised if your waiter asks “una botella?” instead of “un vaso?” when offering you wine in a restaurant as this is usually how it is served. However, some restaurants do offer half bottles so don’t hesitate to ask for one and order a glass of it too, to check whether you like it before ordering more!
Finally, there's one important detail to note about when you order your first glass of wine: Spaniards often order their first glass by asking for una copita ("a little glass"). This does not mean it will be any smaller than other glasses—it just means that you'll be paying for less wine. However, if you do want a smaller pour or only half a glass, ask for una media copa (or "half-glass") and it will come at half price!