How to Order Good Wine in a Restaurant Without Looking Like an Idiot

We’ve all been there: you go to a nice restaurant with friends, you sit in your chairs in anticipation… and then a wine list drops in front of you, and suddenly you’re living the dream that you appear to be. naked for your algebra test and everyone laughs at you.

Simply put, there are two fundamental reasons why wine is so complex. One thing, no two wines are exactly the same, and bottles of the same variety and category can be very different; secondly, there is simply no universal language for wine. It may seem like it is—and wine experts (and amateur snobs) definitely say it is—but we all perceive wine differently. For example, if you say you like sweet red wine, these three simple words can mean completely different things to different people.

So, how can you pick a restaurant wine that you really enjoy without trying every wine on their list and earning a PhD? in vinology (what I’m guessing a thing)? While there is no guaranteed algorithm to make this certain, you can get a lot closer to wine nirvana if you know what to say and what to ask and what not to.

Don’t pretend you know more about wine than you really do.

The first rule of the wine club is to admit defeat immediately. Don’t try to pretend you know more about wine than you really do, and don’t hesitate to ask the sommelier. If the restaurant does not have a permanent wine expert, ask your waiter or bartender for a recommendation.

Definition of “good” wine

For our purposes, “good” wine is any wine you like, so get rid of your ego or any tendency to be pretentious. The only way to get a wine you like is to ask a few questions, and if you’re worried about looking smart or worldly, it’s just going to be a mess.

So just admit it: the only thing you know about wine is that you like it. And if what you like costs six bucks at the grocery store, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Focus on body and tannins, not taste

Don’t focus on taste. In summer, wine might remind you of pears, while someone else might think of pine-tinged nectarines or some other flavor profile. Wine is very personal, so it’s unlikely that your intimate, primary reaction to wine will be understood by anyone else, even a trained wine professional.

Instead, focus on the more objective aspects of wine. The body is a good starting point: do you like wines that are light and fleeting in the mouth, or wines that are heavy and “oily” that stay? You can think of the body in terms of milk: light body is skim, medium body is whole, and full body is cream. Simply understanding this part will save you more than half of the wine list. Tannins are also a good and reliable clue: wines with high tannins give a “wrinkled” feel and a slight bitterness, so you can let your waiter know how tolerant you are of that.

You might think that the level of fruit in a wine (e.g. “fruit first”) would be objective, but most people confuse this with sweetness (see below) when in fact it has more to do with the smell and taste of sweet fruit. “savory” or “earthy” wines will remind you more of bitter fruits like cranberries. Just knowing what kind of fruit you enjoy as an appetizer can help you choose the wine you enjoy.

Share examples of wines you like

Wine selection is a conversation, and you have to provide your interlocutor with the right information to get the job done. It’s best to start with a wine you already like, even if it’s boxed. Wine professionals are intimately familiar with popular mass-produced brands, so if you can tell them that you’re passionate about Three Buck Chuck, it’ll give them something to work with. Again, worry too much about “sounding smart”, this is your enemy – the more honest you are about your proletarian taste in wine, the better your chances of coming out a winner.

A great strategy is to take a photo of the label every time you enjoy a wine and show your sommelier a few of the bottles you love. Chances are they will know at least a few and that will be all they need to find a similar taste.

Know the difference between “dry” and “sweet” wines

You might think that something like “cute” would be fairly objective, but it’s not. Wine enthusiasts have some crazy ideas about what constitutes a “sweet” wine – you can order a “sweet red” and get something that doesn’t seem sweet at all – because almost all wines are categorized as dry , and call wine ” fruity.” ” does not mean it is sweet.

If you like sweet wine in the sense of sugar, order dessert wine. Yes, you can have dessert wine with dinner. After all, you are an adult who most likely ate a candy bar for breakfast in the recent past. Or, if you like a bit of sweetness but aren’t looking for a dessert wine, the term semi-dry should nudge your sommelier away from drier wines towards something with a little more residual sugar.

Ordering wine in a restaurant shouldn’t make you sweat. After all, wine is to be enjoyed. If you focus on these simple features and listen to the advice given to you by the professionals who work with you, there will be no reason why you cannot find something you like.


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