The first step would be to inspect the cork to see if the cork is moist or dry. You want the cork to be moist and not cracked. Also it would be a good idea to inspect the cork to check if the label matches the bottle. This would ensure that you haven’t been fobbed off with either a counterfeit product or a recorked wine (It has been known to happen!!)
DO NOT SMELL THE CORK.. You are more likely to pick up any fault in the wine once the wine in poured into the glass.
The Maitre D is next likely to pour a small amount of wine in a glass and hand it over to you.
At this point the first step would be to inspect the wine. If there is discoloration i.e. red wine turning brick red or Brown and whites have a peculiar oxidized look. (Whites are more prone to Oxidative damage because of lesser tannins). This discoloration points to either faulty sealing or faulty storage. Also look for sedimentation in the wine (Not necessarily bad)
At this point also notice for any additional bubbling in the wine, if it isn’t a sparkling wine, there shouldn’t be any bubbling, which would point to unwanted secondary fermentation, which may be a Big NO NO (unless in very rare cases the winemakers employ this as a technique for the wine)
Next step would be to gently swirl the wine, about three swirls should be sufficient (please ensure that the wine isn’t violently shaken )..Take a whiff of the wine. The smells to watch out for would be mouldy or a wet newspaper smell (Signs that the wine has been ‘Corked’), Stale fruit, vinegar or a cough syrup kind of smell (signs that the Wine has been ‘Cooked’ ) or the smell of Rotten Eggs (Sulphides).
If the Wine passes all the tests above, you should be happy to have the Maitre D serve you the wine. If it doesn’t please do not hesitate to return the bottle. Most establishments will gladly replace the wine.