Let’s be honest: who wants to be seen at the checkout holding a copy of “Wine for Dummies”?
And yet, your wine knowledge is lacking. It’s not that you don’t like drinking it — it’s more that you’re accustomed to thinking of wine in terms of white, red, pink, and bubbly.
So, to save you the checkout line — and dining experience — embarrassment, we’ve out together a guide to get you great with grapes (and fast). Your date (or spouse) will look at you with a certain sense of swoon and you’ll be able to get a glass of something fantastic, no matter where your culinary adventures might take you.
Wine Tip #1: Always taste it first.
When you order a bottle, the waiter should always bring it to your table unopened and then pour a small amount in a glass for you to taste. Always taste it first and let the waiter know you approve.
Wine Tip #2: When to request a decanter.
Many young wines could benefit from a few minutes at least. Decanting older winers allows any sediment to settle to the bottom prior to pouring. For best results, ask the waiter if he recommends the wine be decanted. Most people only think of red wines as benefitting from decanting, but many whites can benefit as well.
Wine Tip #3: By the glass or by the bottle?
Most restaurants limit the wines they offer by the glass. The selection by the bottle will always be more abundant. Price-wise, you’ll see a significant difference. If two people plan on consuming two glasses of wine each or you’re dining with a party of four all expecting to drink at least one glass, the bottle will be the better deal price-wise.
Wine Tip #3: Say it right.
Chenin Blanc (shay-nin blan)
Meritage (mar-i-tij) NOT (mer-i-taaaaaaaj)
Need more tips? Check out wineloverspage for an audible lexicon of over 400 wine-related terms!
Wine Tip #4: Check the vintage.
When you order wine, be sure to check that the vintage (year) they bring to the table is what you ordered. In all but rare exceptions, a younger wine (newer) should be less expensive. If they’ve brought you an older vintage and explain they are out of what you ordered, it’s a polite gesture to extend you the same price on the better bottle.
Wine Tip #5: Ask the waiter.
Som restaurants, especially finer ones, can have overbearing wine lists for wine novices. If you find yourself faced with pages of reds and whites, ask your server what he or she recommends. They will ask you about your taste preferences and make a recommendation. Many restaurants will also bring you a taste if they have something open so you can try before you buy. You can always ask for a taste, but there might not be an open bottle for the waitstaff or bar staff to sample from.
Wine Tip #6: Pairing wines with food.
While there are no longer any hard and fast rules, there are still some taste conventions that wine novices can go by. For seafood, chicken, salads, and lighter foods, whites are a common choice. For heavier steaks and cream-based and red sauce dishes, full-bodied reds pair well. For lighter meat dishes, try a fruity red. For dessert, you can try a Reisling, Gewürztraminer, grappa, ice wine, or port. Champagne is best left to its own devices or paired with fruit.
Wine Tip #7: Glass half full?
Actually, better restaurants will pour your wine glass only to fill the bottom third of the glass. This allows air to come in and enhance the wine’s flavor. Don’t expect this at Applebee’s, though. It’s also a great conversation piece when pouring wine for a date at your house or while at the table of a restaurant during dinner.
Wine Tip #8: The best question you can ask.
If you’re in a swanky joint with its own sommelier, ask the waiter for a moment of his or her time. When the sommelier arrives, ask him/her what they’re excited about on the wine list. Talk about the ultimate geek-out! The sommelier is responsible for building and maintaining the wine list, so you’ll likely spark a fun conversation with someone passionate about wine making a great recommendation to enhance your meal.
Wine Tip #9: When ordering for a business dinner…
Don’t get caught high and dry. Even wine enthusiasts can get caught short on this one. Always call the restaurant in advance and request the wine you’d like served with dinner. This way, you’re not stuck if it happens to not be in stock on the date of your event. Arrive early the date of your event and have a casual chat with the waitstaff to ensure your selections are available. Most restaurants now publish their wine lists online so you can review in advance.
Wine Tip #10: Budgets are cool.
The truth is this: there are delicious wines in every price range (and even every type of packaging). There is no shame in having a budget on wine when you’re out to eat. Great bottles can be had for $10 and $1000. What they all share in common? They’ll all be gone in about four glasses! While more expensive wines can taste better to some people, never be afraid to express a price range preference to the bartender, sommelier, or waiter. If your date gets judgy, well…that’s another issue.