A restaurant wine list can be overwhelming, sometimes looking more like a catalog. Even worse is the swanky restaurant that has a wine list delivered by a sommelier…intimidating to say the least. But take a breath. If a restaurant has a sommelier, thank them! The sommelier is there to help you! That should make you happy not intimidated. Talk with them on whatever level you are, and they will gladly meet you there.
Whether working with a sommelier or not, extensive wine lists should not be overwhelming. If you find yourself weaving through the pages of a wine list, here are a few tips to give you the upper hand. You can use just one of the tips or use them all to narrow down your decision:
Choose a grape variety – a helpful website to learn about grapes is www.nosnob.com/about-grapes. It will teach you information like, Merlot is pronounced “mur-lo,” it is a medium bodied, ruby colored wine tasting like cherry, plum and chocolate and pairs with pasta, grilled meat and chicken. No internet? Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette is an excellent source (you should buy this book anyway, it’s a great reference).
Choose your style of wine –
Sparkling (examples – Champagne, Cava, Prosecco)
Aromatic White (examples -Riesling, Gewurztraminer)
Light Bodied White (examples – unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio)
Full Bodied White (examples – oaked Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne)
Rosé (made with many varieties of grapes, think of style – fruity, dry)
Light Bodied Red (examples – Pinot Noir, Gamay)
Medium Bodied Red (Merlot, Grenache, Sangiovese)
Full Bodied Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah)
Choose by pairing the wine with your food – this is personal but there are general rules, if you would like more information, I wrote a post about a year ago on the subject: http://www.deepredcellar.com/pairing-wine-and-food/
Choose by price point – if a sommelier or wait staff is involved, pointing to a general price on the menu is a tactful way to give the sommelier an idea of your price range. This is especially helpful if you are on a first date or treating a group of people to wine and want to be incognito about how much you would like to spend.
Bottom line, it is your dining experience and your dollar, so take the time to make a decision that will make the occasion an enjoyable one.