8 Tips for Navigating a Wine List

iStock_000008666127XSmallSelecting a bottle of wine at a restaurant can be a daunting, intimidating task — especially if you’re trying to impress someone, be it a date or a client or a boss.

Here are eight tips to help relieve the stress…

1. Peruse the restaurant’s wine list online before you go. You may spot an old favorite, or at least get a good idea of what types of wine are featured — something you may not want to do when you’re also trying to figure out what to eat.

2. Think backwards. Most people select their entrée, then ask the sommelier for wine suggestions. Just for fun, find a wine you know (or are pretty sure) you’ll like, and then pick a dish to match it — or ask your server for a suggestion.

3. Verify the vintage. Many wines are very similar from year to year, but there can be vintage variances. If the vintage isn’t listed on the wine list, ask.

4. When talking with a sommelier and trying to narrow down your wine choices, ask this question: “What do you drink at home that’s on the list?”

5. You’re having steak and your dining companion is having fish. What should you do? Pinot Noir is a wise choice, especially if the fish is salmon. Otherwise, consider ordering two 375-ml. bottles (if available), or separate wines by the glass. In such instances, a well-selected by-the-glass list is worth its weight in gold.

6. Study how the wine list is constructed. If there are 20 red Burgundies and only four Italian reds, chances are the wine buyer or sommelier is a fan of red Burgundy and stocks an array to complement the menu. Other selections from other places probably are “filler.” It’s best to play to the restaurant’s strengths.

7. It’s okay to shop by price. An easy way to let the sommelier know is to point to a price on the wine list and tell him/her, “We’re looking for something in this range.”

8. Go wild. Sometimes the best choice on a wine list is something you’ve never heard of. Put your trust in the sommelier, and you just may be pleasantly surprised.

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