Navigating the wine list at any restaurant can be a little daunting. At least when you are in a retail store, you can look at the bottle’s label and learn a lot about the wine. This is why many restaurants have a sommelier on staff to assist you. They are the ones that taste the wines and create a wine list that is compatible to the food menu. Whether you are looking for a special occasion wine or enjoying a glass “just because”, here are some tips on what to let the sommelier know so that they can best assist you.
- What do you like? Let them know what you tend to like for wines – “I recently tried an Oregon pinot noir and I loved it. Do you have anything like that?” This helps point the Sommelier in the style of wine you are looking for.
- Price Point – Let them know what price point you are looking for and do not be shy about it. The majority of wine professionals are not drinking expensive, rare wines all of the time. We tend to like to find a good deal so we understand customers looking for the same. Trying asking them what their favorite wine under a certain price is.
- Any curiosities? If you have been curious about a certain region or a certain varietal of wine, ask the Sommelier about it. This will let them know that you would like to try something new and they should point you to a fairly accessible wine from that area.
- Food Pairings – Let the Sommelier know what the table is having and they can help you pair a wine for that. On the other hand, if everyone is having fish for dinner but want a red wine, let them know that so they can suggest along the lines of what the table is looking for. It is fun to pair wines with foods but sometimes you want to break those parameters for something specific. It is your meal so nothing wrong with that!
- Make it Personal – A good way to land something fun and maybe even something new that is not on the menu yet, ask the Sommelier which wine they are most excited about right now. It makes the conversation personal and can open up the start of a nice relationship if you are a repeat customer at this restaurant.
And here are a few tips on what to avoid asking or focusing on…
- Wine Scores – Wine ratings can be helpful when shopping in retail stores or looking to collect certain bottles. In a restaurant, the Sommelier is most likely choosing wines that specifically go with the Chef’s foods or they chose the wine because of their past experience with it.
- Is this wine good? This can be an insulting question. The Sommelier almost always tastes every wine that is on the menu. They would not put a wine on the menu if they did not qualify its quality first.
- Vintages – It is true that wines change by vintage and some years are better years than others for certain regions. Majority of the time though, if it is a quality wine producer, they will still make great wines so do not get too hung up on this.
- Are you certified? Most likely the Sommelier has been certified or accredited through one of the many wine institutes. If they have not, I would trust that they are very experienced in their job by working their way up through restaurants. Many times, if they are certified through certain organizations, they will wear a pin on their uniform.
We hope this helps for the next time you are out to eat and presented with a daunting wine menu. Also, Wine Curations is always available to help educate so you can handle the wine ordering like a pro!