Unless you are a wine geek and spend your summers deep in the wine regions of France tasting that years vintage, it’s likely that when it comes to buying wine in a restaurant you do what most people do and pick the wine you can afford and pronounce.
In this short guide I’ll set out a few general rules and tips that will have you picking a great wine with confidence.
1) Ask the wine waiter (sommelier) to advise you. They are their to help and will listen to your meal choices before selecting the best wine to match your choices.
2) Stay on budget by pointing at the price NOT the wine when asking your waiter – ‘I want something like this’. A good smellier will keep their recommendations within a few pounds of that price.
3) Good French wine is generally expensive (you have to remember it’s probably twice the price – if not more – than in the shops) so be prepared to pay £40+ for something half decent.
4) Having said that, once you get much past £200 a bottle you are paying for rarity and age so unless you have very deep pockets I really wouldn’t bother spending more.
5) New world wines (basically anything except France) can offer great value for money.The one exception to this rule is wine from the USA (mainly California) this can be amazing but, it too comes with a hefty
6) If you don’t want to/can’t ask for advice use the descriptions to guide you. Here is a quick list of words to lookout for and how they match to food.
– Acidic/zesty – Great for rich creamy food
– Spicy – Loves grilled meats
– Smokey – Try with a curry/spicy food
– Delicate/floral – Light fish dishes or salads
7) Sweet wine/desert wine is often overlooked but once you’ve tried a glass with you pudding you’ll understand why they work so well together. Just like all other wines, the idea here is to match the
wine with your food and generally speaking the wine should be just sweeter than your desert.
8) Champagne can be a great way to start or end a meal but to get a good bottle you will generally need to pay £130+ (look for vintage or prestige versions from the producer). However all is not lost, Cava
and Procecco offer a great way to add a little fizz to the night and will cost you much less (£20-40). In my opinion they are generally as good as the standard bottles of Champagne you find on most menus for
twice the price.
9) Wine by the glass is a great way to quickly broaden your wine knowledge and opens up even more opportunity to successfully pair your wine and food.
There is an added bonus too… After a while your palate becomes used to the taste of your wine and the flavour seems less intense. By changing it up each course you’ll appreciate your choices even more.
10) These days many restaurants will offer an opportunity for customers to bring their own wine and charge ‘corkage’ (a small amount you pay for the pleasure of drinking your wine out of their glasses). For the restaurant this saves them the expense of a licence and for the customer they can chose their own wine from a supermarket or local wine store.
11) Finally, I think it should be said. Just because you’re in a restaurant it doesn’t mean you have to get wine at all. Sometimes a simple beer or gin and tonic is perfect, so go for that.