Question: I’m visiting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time next month. We’re going out to dinner at an upscale restaurant they like. I’m afraid they’ll hand me the wine list at dinner and ask me to choose. I don’t have a clue. What would you suggest? JW, Lakewood.
Marisa: The wine list can certainly be intimidating, but don't let the tens of pages stress you out. The list will probably be broken into several sections - depending on the restaurant. Simple wine lists are often organized in three sections: bubbles, reds, and whites.
Restaurants with more advanced lists will usually organize their offerings by wine by the glass, then follow with bottles listed by region or country of origin, varietal, and/or by style. The more advanced lists will also include bottles with its producer, appellation and vintage. The sheer amount of information may be overwhelming, but the tips below will make you a professional, before you know it:
To set the tone and buy yourself time to peruse the bottle list, order a bottle of bubbles! Champagne / Sparkling Wine / Prosecco will open your guest's senses and get their appetites ready for the meal ahead. This beverage is often an aperitif and will enhance your dining experience.
Do not let price distract you - price does not always dictate quality. A $20.00 bottle may taste better to you and your guests than a $100.00 bottle.
Never be afraid to ask your server questions - ask if they have any unique bottles that arrived recently and what makes them stand out from the others. Is it the winemaker? How was the wine made? A great vintage or award-winner? This is an excellent way to gauge if the bottle(s) not only sounds interesting to you, but it will also give you a chance to observe the reactions from your guests. I personally like asking this question because it makes the meal more adventurous and memorable, rather than buying a classic bottle of Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Don't be afraid to take the road less-traveled. Varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio are well-known, but don't overlook Merlot, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc. They aren't as popular as the core four, but they most likely will be well-priced compared to the usual "go-to's" and be just as delicious!
Marisa Sergi, Chief Growth Officer welcomes wine-related questions from Truffles readers. Send your questions to: Toby@sweetdesigns.com.