Avoid the confusion with the dreaded wine list

So you’re out to dinner at a swanky new eatery, entertaining clients or simply enjoying time with friends. The ten page wine list has landed in front of you, and as the host, you are tasked with choosing a bottle for the table. Even the most seasoned oenophile may start shaking in their boots when put on the spot, but remain calm. Here are some pointers from restaurant industry experts to guide you through the process.

 
First and foremost, always consult a Sommelier if the restaurant has one on staff. This person is employed to help you navigate the wine list, however daunting or familiar it may seem. Once you have recruited their help, be direct with what you’re looking for following these steps:
  • Share what you normally like to drink. Throw out some producers if you have your go-to favorites or keep it straightforward with the varietal and region (i.e. “Napa Cab” or “French Chardonnay”).
  • Communicate what you’re looking for in the bottle. Are you wanting something within your comfort zone or are you in the mood to branch out? 
  • From this point, try to keep descriptors simple. Use words you can associate with what your looking for. Crisp and mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc? Fruity and light-bodied Pinot Noir? Or a rich and tannic Bordeaux blend? Other useful adjectives include earthy, oaky, acidic, sparkling, and tart.
  • Never use the word “dry”. In the wine world, anything that lacks residual sugar is considered to be dry so it’s best to use more specific vocabulary. If you don’t know how to describe what you’d like, tell the Somm what you are not looking for, such as a buttery Chardonnay.
  • If you are comfortable speaking about price with your party in earshot, go ahead and vocalize your price range. If you’d rather keep the price tag to yourself, point to a bottle on the list and say you’re looking for something comparable.
  • For the more trusting and adventurous imbibers, put yourself in the Somm or server’s hands! These people more than likely have been plotting the perfect (and reasonably priced) bottle for their own dining experience and know what selections pair well with the cuisine. 
Let’s say there is not a Sommelier on staff and your server is not fully confident with the wine list. Your best bet is to avoid the lowest and highest bottles on the list immediately. Find the median price and look below and above roughly $15 to locate something worth it’s price tag. 
When all else fails, order whiskey.

Bethany Kocak
Beverage Professional, McCrady’s
Charleston, SC

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