It can be the most anticipated or the most dreaded part of a restaurant experience–choosing the wine that will accompany the meal. Decoding a restaurant’s wine list doesn’t have to be difficult; in fact, it can be quite simple if you follow the simple tips given below.

Just relax: If you often dine with colleagues or the same group of friends, there’s always one person in the group that ends up getting the wine list. If that person is you, don’t get nervous about picking the wine; most people aren’t too picky. Wine connoisseurs will evaluate your choice, but most people just want an enjoyable drink to go with their meal. Even if you don’t make the best choice, your evening will not be ruined.

Stick with what you know: If you’re perusing the list and see a name you recognize, or there’s a certain grape variety or region you prefer, use that preference to pick something you know you’ll like. If the restaurant’s wine list resembles a telephone directory, think of a wine you like, find the section for that country and pick something close.

Ask for advice: There are so many winemakers now that it takes a real expert to be acquainted with everything on a substantial wine list. In most restaurants, the servers and/or sommelier are the most knowledgeable on wine. Some can be a bit uppity, and some have ulterior motives, but usually, they just want to help you find the right wine to accompany your meal.

Help yourself: Once you’re talking to the restaurant’s wine expert, help them help you make the best choice by:

  • Setting a budget: If you don’t want to say your “number” out loud, point to a couple of wines and say that you’re looking for something “in that range”.
  • Discuss the foods being ordered. If the expert knows what you’ll be eating, he or she can recommend the perfect accompaniment. For instance, a porterhouse or ribeye would be better paired with a red wine, while a fish or chicken dish goes best with white wines.
  • Offer guidance as to wine type. If your dining companions tend to favor deep, complex reds, tell the sommelier. If you like sweeter, drier wines, say it! Your information can help your server make the right recommendation.

Don’t be shy about sending the bottle back: Rely on your judgment–if you don’t think it tastes right, you’re probably correct. However, some wines may taste a little “off” at first only because they’re not quite “opened up”. If your waiter brings the bottle already opened, or if they bring more after the initial bottle is empty, don’t worry about offending them–send the wine back.

Attention to detail now can save you the pain of an unexpectedly high restaurant bill, and it can earn you accolades and admiration from your dining companions. By taking the time to read the tips on this list, you can choose the perfect wine every time you go out to dinner.

Choosing the drink, especially if you’re choosing for a group can be quite daunting but don’t forget to taste it and ask everyone’s opinion. Consider your options and what food everyone will be having and go with the best one that’ll satisfy your taste buds! If you need any more information please check out Gourmet Society.

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