Say you find yourself at a restaurant with your girlfriends for a nice get together. Most of us would steer clear of the wine list for two common reasons: (1) because it isn't in our culture to drink this type of alcohol; and (2) because we don't know how to navigate the extensive wine list. If your reason is the latter, well, your days of wine ignorance is over! We've got beginner tips for you to follow so that you can order a glass (or bottle) of wine at a restaurant without looking clueless:
1. Decide if you want red or white wine. Now this already cuts the wine list in half. If you're unsure of the pairings, the rule is to always go with white wine for white meat and red wine for dark meat. You also have to know the variety and the region where the wine comes from.
Variety (from sweet to dry) - Basic types you need to know are: Ice Wine, Asti Spumanti, Prosecco, Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Late Harveset Riesling, White Zinfandel, Rose, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Chianti Fruity, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon
Regions - These are the French wine regions that you may read on the label: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, Côtes du Rhone, Cognac/Charentes, Jura, Languedoc, Loire Valley, Médoc, Provence, South-west
2. Set your price range.
There's no shame in ordering wine that isn't on the high end list. Good wine isn't all about the price tag, after all!
Pro tip: Do not order the house wine unless you are in a restaurant from Italian or French villages.
3. When in doubt, ask the sommelier or the server. Of course we aren't all wine experts so don't be afraid to ask for help. But the thing is to provide the right information so that they would be able to give you the right type of wine for your meal. Here's what you need:
New World or Old World?
The former are more fruit-forward while the latter has a more earthy taste.
The body of the wine refers to the weight and thickness of the wine in the mouth: light-bodied (like skim milk); medium-bodied (like whole milk) and; full-bodied (like full cream)
4. Sample the wine. When your server comes back with the wine, it's the best opportunity to check the vintage (the year it was harvested and made). They will then pull the cork and pour a tiny sample into your wine glass.
Don't smell the cork. But do check if it is wet, meaning it was stored properly. For old and expensive wines, do check the printing on the cork as well to see if it matches the label.
Take a good whiff of the sampled wine in your glass. You must smell fruity, floral or other nice aromas from it. Otherwise, send the wine back.
Once accomplished, there's nothing left to do but to enjoy your wine!