Wine World

Ordering wine in a restaurant

One of the questions I am asked most often about wine is this: How do you pick a wine from a restaurant wine list? There are people who love looking at wine lists — people who stop listening to the train of the conversation swirling around them as they lose themselves in the pages listing regions, varietals, producers, and vintages while they try to find the best value, look for selections to please everyone at the table, and covet bottles that they would want to taste if money were no object. For others, that list is either kryptonite or a hot potato, something that inflicts stress and pressure, best passed off to someone else to handle.

What do you if you are in the latter category and you are stuck with the list? The answer is both complicated and simple. The simple answer is to ask your server or the sommelier for help. The complicated part is how to ask for help. The more categories and descriptions you can provide the better. Red, white, rosé, still, sparkling? What price range? What are you ordering for food? Or do you not care about pairing wine with food? Do you want to try something new? Would you prefer something familiar? What kind of wines do you generally like? New World (e.g., California, Australia)? Old World (e.g., France, Italy)? Full-bodied? Lighter-bodied? Name some wines not on the list that you have liked. The only descriptors I would avoid because they can cause confusion are: “smooth,” “dry,” and “sweet.” Otherwise, have fun! It is better to ask for directions than to get lost, I promise.

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