Okay, you are at a nice restaurant, sit down and, in addition to the menu, are presented with leather covered wine list the size of a bible.
What do you do?
Here are two approaches to try.
First, you can ask for help. It’s not an easy thing to do, and can be very intimidating, especially if the waiter/sommellier is a bit snotty.
Best way to handle that is to be as specific as possible! Tell the waiter the grape, style and price range – say a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon for around $50 or an buttery Chardonnay. With that much info, you should get back a couple of recommendations. Keep in mind bottle prices can be 2 – 3 times retail, so your options may be limited.
You can take the same approach ordering wine by the glass, by the way, if you don’t recognize any of the options. But watch out for wines that have been open too long! If it seems off, ask for a new bottle to be opened.
And if you want to go it on your own with the wine list?
Well, first off, scan the list for wines you may know and like. If you find one and can live with the price, that is an option.
If you want to try something new, think hard about the style of wine you like and try to match that with the prices they are charging!
Easiest matches are Cali style Cabs and Chardonnay, French Syrah amd Grenache and Aussie Shiraz…you can just about guarantee they will be the same style as the wines you know and like.
Ones to be careful of are Cabernet wines from other parts of the world (which can be woody and herbal) and Grenaches/Syrahs from Spain and Italy (which can be oaky). I am not saying those are bad, just different in style. You can ask if you like…the waiter/sommelier should be able to tell you the style.
A last piece of advice with respect to older wines. You will pay more, of course, but more important is understanding what they will taste like. If you are going to drop $100+ on a bottle and don’t have a lot of experience with mature wines, remember that the fruitiness will probably be gone, replaced by herbal, dried fruit. It can still be great…but very, very different!
So there you go! How to deal with a wine list at a nice restaurant.
So go, order…and enjoy!