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HOW TO PICK A WINE AT A RESTAURANT

START THE EVENING WITH SOMETHING BUBBLY

If you have the budget go for champagne if not a glass of dry white. Franciacorta or Prosecco are excellent less expensive sparkling Italian alternatives to champagne. A bubbly or a dry wine will stimulate your appetite, and prepare you for a night of nice wine and good food.

WHAT DO YOU PREFER - RED OR WHITE?
Find out what the group prefers — red or white. This will make the decision easier. If there isn't a consensus, go with one bottle of red and one bottle of white.

KEEP IT IN THE SAME AREA CODE

If you are dining in an Italian, French or Spanish restaurant and ordering dishes of these nationalities the pairings are easy. Match them with wines from the area. For example, Tapas with wines from the Spanish region of Rioja, or pasta/pizza with tomato based sauce with something Italian.

THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS THAT GOES WITH EVERYTHING

If there is a variety of dishes ordered then a more versatile wine is needed. Pinot Noir for reds or Sauvignon Blanc for whites have good acidity to keep the palette clean after each tasty bite.

SAFE BETS
Order wines from producers with pedigree. The Marchese Antinori started making wine in Florence in 1385. Over the years they have acquired some of Italy’s best land for growing grapes and some of the most talented winemakers. Choosing one of Antinori’s many wines is always a safe bet. Louis Jadot of France and Miguel Torres of Spain are two of their contemporaries in their respective countries that make excellent wine for all budgets.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOU TASTE THE WINE
Don’t look for what’s there — look for what’s not there. If the bottle doesn’t smell of offensive odors such as corky, moldy then it should be good. If it is bad send it back. If you’re not sure ask for a second opinion. Just don’t ask the guy who smoked two cigarettes on the way in.

LET IT BREATHE

If the wine is a few years old don’t expect for it to be explosive right out of the bottle. If you were trapped in a bottle for 5 years, you'd need some time to stretch out too.


DEALING WITH THE SOMMELIER

ASK FOR THE BEST VALUE WINE ON THE WINE LIST.

Good restaurants have qualified staff that is knowledgeable about wine. Ask the sommelier for advice. They are passionate about wine and food and love to talk about it. I know I do.

SAY EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT
“A red wine from Italy, to pair with ossobuco and swordfish for under $100.” The clearer the instructions the easier the sommelier can help you.

HIDDEN GEMS
Find out if the sommelier has something special stashed away. I keep a few dozen special bottles in a little corner of the wine cellar for afficionados, friends or special occasions. Bottles from exceptional vintages that are no longer available, odds and ends from previous winelists or selections that really moved me.
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