No one likes to feel like a dope when staring down a wine list. So here’s a cheat sheet on how to avoid embarrassment, culled from the collective wisdom of sommeliers and other wine professionals.
DECIDE WHAT’S FOR DINNER
Bring it all back to the food. Food and wine do many things to each other when paired together. Figure out what you’re eating first, then talk to the sommelier—it’ll help her make an informed recommendation.
Now look for discernible “themes” on the list. Never, EVER, walk into a wine store or restaurant and ask for ‘…a nice, dry red wine. It’s the same as walking into a grocery store and saying: ‘Excuse me, do you have any FOOD?
It’s OK to mention a price range. Really. You don’t have to be a big shot and demand the priciest thing on the wine list. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’d like to spend 2,500 Bath and I’d like a Cabernet.”
SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE
You don’t need a PhD in wine vocabulary. Just consider the basic building blocks of wine and how they apply to your choice:
Do you want something “light-bodied and crisp,” “full-bodied and rich,” or somewhere in between?
Think “sweet” (not sugary-sweet but ripe fruit–sweet) versus “savory” (flavors of wood barrels, earth, etc.).
Acids and tannins from grapes give wine its tartness and bite. If you prefer something smoother (i.e., lower in acid or tannin), say so.
NOW PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
“Do you have any red wines that are light-bodied, fruit-forward, and pretty smooth?”
JUST GET WEIRD
When you’re ordering by the glass, the most unusual-sounding wine may be your best bet. (It’s probably the one the sommelier is most excited about, as opposed to the one he thinks you’ll like.)
Besides, how much Chardonnay can one person drink in a lifetime?
Your Perfect Wine
Congratulations, you did it!
If you don’t like the wine – I say you are within your rights to politely send back a flawed