I never was a wine person. To me, wine was pretentious; a beverage to be avoided at all costs lest someone realize I was a complete wine infant. I once ordered a zinfandel and expected to be served a crisp white liquid, but what arrived was a heady red. Lucky for me, I have a brother-in-law who is a wine expert, having worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years. Since I turned legal age, he’s taught me the ABCs of whites and reds, and most importantly, he’s done it with zero pretentiousness. Now, when I go to a restaurant, I order vino with confidence. Below are Bill’s top three confidence boosting tips to make you look like a wine expert, or at least not like a wine idiot.
No. 1: There is no wrong choice. Wine is what you make it. If something tastes good to you, then it’s good. There’s no need to feel inadequate in your choice. Even if you order the least expensive glass or bottle on the menu, be confident! The restaurant has already sealed and signed their approval by placing said wine on the menu in the first place, so sip proud.
No. 2: Confidence booster No. 2 is a simple rule of thumb—red for land and white for sea. This means that in general, dishes such as steak and pork pair better with reds and seafood pairs better with white. Don’t worry about the varietal (i.e. sauvignon blanc, merlot, etc.) just choose what you know you like. If you can’t shake your concern, just ask. Waiters and sommeliers (wine experts) are there to help, so asking for a quick recommendation of a wine to pair with your dish won’t pester them, it will give them the pleasure of pride in their job, ensuring you are pleased with not only the wine, but your entire dining experience.
No. 3: Attend a local tasting at a wine shop or wine bar, or if there’s one nearby, a winery. Some people are apprehensive about drinking wine because they’ve never had a proper experience with a wine expert to show them the ropes of sipping and pairing. If your entire wine world view consists of a swig of two buck chuck out of a plastic cup at a neighbor’s barbeque, perhaps it’s time to get reacquainted.
Next time you’re at dinner with friends, don’t hide from the wine menu. Read it, ask for suggestions, make your choice and lift your glass high. Cheers!