Grappling with the Wine List
It is often the case these days, particularly in ‘fine dining’ establishments, that the food menu is very short and the wine list is very long. Wine lists that go on for pages and pages can be a bit of a confusing ordeal though. Ultimately most of us just want something that will complement the food nicely and won’t cost the earth. How should the average wine enthusiast tackle the ‘larger than life’ wine list?
Consider what you’re eating, and immediately rule out half the list
There’s nothing wrong with matching a delicate red with fish or a robust white Burgundy with meat, but think about what color of wine you want to have and just focus on that section. It still might be a pretty expansive list but at least you’ve made a good start!
Should you match the country?
If you’re stuck, think about the meal you are expecting – if the restaurant has an Italian or French influence then it is worth going for a French or Italian wine. There are no hard and fast rules of course, but using this as a rule of thumb seldom disappoints. After all, French, Italian and Spanish wines are made with the local cuisine in mind.
Grape or producer?
Should you go for a grape variety you are familiar with, or a producer you have heard of? It doesn’t really matter – on one hand you are spending a little more on the wine so there is some sense in sticking to something you know you will enjoy, but additionally it might be a good opportunity to push the boat out a little further. If you see a grape variety that you like, order a slightly more expensive version that you haven’t tried before. Or if you know the producer, see what other wines of theirs are on the menu – they are probably all fantastic!
Two house wine tricks worth watching out for
Good restaurants ought to have a credible house wine, but on closer inspection there may be another wine on the menu at a lower price. Similarly many restauranteurs know that some customers will actively avoid the house wine and plump for the second least expensive wine – that sometimes means it is a lesser wine with a bigger mark-up. Don’t be afraid to look beyond these two – you might find a cracking bargain from somewhere like Argentina or a lesser-known Italian wine that is not a big seller. Ask the sommelier, they’ll probably have a few favourites.
And don’t forget: you can always be a bit cheeky and try to ask for a little taste before making your decision!