Going out this Christmas? Restaurant wine lists can seem baffling. In fact “wine list dread” is a surprisingly common feeling. However, there are ways and means of making your way around a wine list and ensuring you get to enjoy a wine that suits your taste buds and your wallet. Below are some tips to keep in mind next time you’re poring nervously over that wine list.
1. Buy Some Time
If you want the time to have a proper think about the wines you’re going to enjoy for dinner then consider a by the glass sparkling wine to begin. It’s a great way to whet your appetite and it allows you to get that little extra bit of time.
2. How is it Organised?
Traditionally wine lists were organised by grape varieties/colour or country/region of origin (e.g. Italian white) but some are now moving to a simpler and more contemporary method of organising by flavour. It is easier for a novice to read by flavour but if it is organised by varieties, you will usually find lighter wines at the top and bolder flavours towards the bottom.
3. Stick to Safe Food Pairs
If you know what you’re going to eat then you can probably organised your drinks around this. Have a food-friendly list of wines at the back of your mind so you’ve always got something to opt for. As well as your standard sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, consider other food-friendly but less common options. You could go in for the old white wine with fish and red with meat line but no one really follows this anymore and the best way of drinking is to pair the wines you like with the foods you like and keep it simple that way.
4. Trust your Sommelier
Your sommelier has been hired because of their wine experience and knowledge and above all else, they’ve been hired to help. If you’re really not sure then ask for their advice, they are passionate about wines and their job is not to sell you the most expensive bottle on the list, but to sell you the best bottle to suit your tastes and your food choices. Try asking a question and you’ll probably be surprised how much you learn.
5. Don’t Forget your Budget
If you have a price range in mind then make sure you let the sommelier know this too as their passion may overflow into offering you something a little pricier than you had hoped for. Keeping within your budget should be possible within every wine list and even the cheapest offerings should be of the highest quality and selected and tasted by the sommelier.