The first strategy is to know which wines are food-friendly. You want your food to pair well with your wine selection. If you are ordering a bottle or two for a whole table, you will want a versatile wine that goes with everyone’s meal choices.
A food-friendly red wine is a Pinot Noir. A food-friendly white wine is a Riesling. Chances are that any respectable wine-serving restaurant will have both on the menu. There are great Pinot Noirs from Oregon and California. The best Rieslings are from Alsace and Germany, but if those aren’t options New York and Canada have good Rieslings as well.
The next strategy is to get a copy of the wine list in advance. This is great if you are trying to impress a group of friends or family with your wine knowledge. Take the wine list and do some research on the Internet if you need to. You can even look up pronunciations so that you can practice before ordering. Several restaurants have web sites or they can fax you a copy as well. Most restaurants will have no problems with sending you the list.
The third strategy is to ask for help. The person you would want to ask is a sommelier. They know wine and they will be able to answer all of your wine questions. Not all restaurants have sommeliers, but if you need to you can get a copy of the wine list and work through it with the sommelier. They will know a lot about the wines and will help you pair what people might be ordering with wines off of the list.
If the restaurant does have sommelier, they will know their wine list intimately. They are taking care of all the aspects of the wine at the restaurant. In most cases, they have personally chosen the wines, stored them, written the descriptions and trained their staff.
In some restaurants, the wine list can be your friend. The list will also let you know what quality of wine is available at the restaurant. The list can be very simple with just a blush, a white and a red. On the other hand, you may have several options for each category. Some lists will provide household wine names that are highly advertised, popular and considered “everyday” wines. If the restaurant really cares about your wine experience, they will offer a variety of different brands and types so that you can mix and match throughout your meal.
Once you have a wine list, you may have to do some deciphering. The list may be very basic and only list the names of the wine and the price. This can be difficult if they are wines that you have never heard of before. Then the wine list may be divided by country or varietal. This is a little more helpful as you will know where the wine is coming from and if it is red or white. Another wine list that is extremely helpful is the “stylish” wine list. These listing the wines under headings of “Dry and Crisp” or “Full-Bodied Reds.” They may even include descriptions such as “oaky” or “hints of chocolate.” This gives you a better idea of what you are getting when you order that wine. The progrogessive wine list may include all of the above. They will most likely list the wines from lightest to richest, or sweet to dry. The price may also be progressive with the most expensive being at the bottom of each section.
Now that you have an idea of what you are going to order, how do you know if it goes with your food? Look for chef suggestions in a menu first. These wines will be off the wine list and have been tested to see what dishes they go with best. The dish you are ordering may have a suggested wine below it.
If a food leaves a sour taste in your mouth, then a wine that is high in acid will complement it. A sour food might include fish with lemon ******** on it or a vinaigrette dressing on a salad. A wine with a high acidity level might be a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Chenin Blanc.
The sweeter the food, the less sweet the wine will taste. If you order dessert, get a wine that is sweeter than your dessert. Even a moderately sweet wine may taste bitter if paired with something really sweet. Suggested sweet pairings include New York Cheesecake and Muscat, Tiramisu and Port, or Bread Pudding with a late harvest Riesling.
If your food has a hint of bitterness, you will want a wine with some bitterness such as a red wine with some tannin. For example, you may choose a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.
By: David Beart
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