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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.