So you’ve mastered the sniffing and swirling and can now wax on eloquently about the “nose” or “bouquet” of a particular wine. Your friends are starting to think you know something about wine, so the next time you’re at a restaurant, they hand you the wine list.
You gulp. Flipping through the pages and pages of wines, some which are as cheap as $20 a bottle and others that range into the hundreds, you begin to panic. What if you order the wrong wine? What if no one likes it? What price range should I go for if I’m looking for something pretty good but not exorbitant?
Before you get to the restaurant, as you taste wines at home, rather than remembering specific labels or vintages, familiarize yourself with regions and varietals. Let’s say you have an amazing Pinot Noir at dinner one night. I had bottle of 1998 Littorai Pinot Noir “Hirsch Vineyard” the other night. Chances are, I’m not going to find the same exact wine at a restaurant, but there will likely find other Pinot Noirs from Sonoma or Mendocino where Ted Lemon of Littorai sources his grapes.
You can even get specific and look for wines from the same growers. Hirsch Vineyard, owned by David Hirsch, sells grapes to many winemakers. If you find another wine with the same grapes, you’ll get even closer to what you’re looking for.
Also, pay attention to varietals. You might love one type of grape from a region, but aren’t a fan of other varietals. Let’s say you try a really great Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley — Merry Edwards, for instance, makes an amazing Sav Blanc. If you’re at a restaurant, you might find a Merry Edwards Chardonnay, but if you aren’t a fan of big, oaky wines, perhaps looking for another Sauvignon Blanc from this region (Russian River Valley is in the county of Sonoma) would be a better idea.
Remember, when you order the same varietal or a wine from the same region, you won’t get exactly the same thing: winemaker styles, grape quality and the particular year’s weather conditions are all factors that influence the wine, but you’ll get an approximation and now you’re at least able to narrow down some ideas.
Plus, now that you’ve gained some knowledge about the region, you can spout some more wine snob talk as you order the wine:
“Oh, yes, we’ll have the Hanna Sauvignon Blanc please,” you’ll tell the waiter before turning to your friends. “I had the most delightful Sauvignon Blanc from this region a while back. A Merry Edwards Sav Blanc, I recall.”
You’ll be on your way to becoming a true wine snob.
Oh, and as for the price thing: it’s really important to be conscious about how much your group is willing to pay for a bottle of wine. Not everyone is a wine snob yet, so be sensitive to your eating companions’ budgets.