We've all been there, you've just sat down at your table in that new restaurant you've been dying to try and the waiter has handed you the wine list.
(a) Pass it to your date or one of your mates to decide?
(b) Stick to trusty beer, which probably doesn't pair very well with your soon to be devoured delicious meal?
(c) Ask the waiter to make a recommendation and risk being recommended the most expensive wines on the list?
(d) Back yourself to choose an awesome wine?
You're reading this, so let's assume you've chosen to go with (d). But where do you start?
1) To start, don't choose your wine first. It's important to get the right bottle to match your food, otherwise what's the point? One slick way to get a drink in your hand asap, and look like pro at the same time, is to order a couple of glasses of Champagne as soon as you sit down. This buys you some time to look at the menu. Know your favourite type that you feel comfortable paying for and if they don't have it, ask the waiter to pick something similar.
2) Once you've chosen your food, it's time to choose the type of wine. Here some basic matching principals can come into play. It's a good idea to know the basic wine matching rules, otherwise you are flying blind. See our previous post to brush up. (hyper link)
3) Now you know which type of wine, but you're still not sure which bottle. With no other information to go by, the region can be a good fall back option. Shiraz from the Barossa, Sav Blanc from New Zealand, Sémillon from the Hunter Valley, Malbec from Mendoza. Although many different regions can produce excellent wines across all different grape varieties, as a fall back option; it's handy to know which wine regions are famous for different grapes
4) If you get stuck with a wine list with only French sounding bottles, don't worry, it's likely the grapes are the same. In France the bottles are just named after the region instead of the grape. So, ask your waiter which French wine is made with Shiraz, Pinot, Chardonnay grapes, etc. If they don't know, don't worry, you just proved that they know less than you.
5) And after the first 4 options, if your decision process has led you to the cheapest bottle on the list, don't be afraid to choose it! The cheapest is usually better quality than the (much higher selling) second cheapest bottle, which often has the biggest margins for the restaurant. Just don't try explaining this to your date......
6) If you still have absolutely no idea, your best option it to revert to option (C)
Be sure to check out The Wine Gallery for more help on the matching process; there's also a great selection of pre-selected wines available for order.