Qtr experts: Choosing wine at a restaurant

Our first expert had to be wine legend Mike from BinTwo. Some of you may remember him from our Barber on the Harbour event in his Padstow shop but once you get hooked on the good stuff you might find their delivery usefull (links at end).

We’ve all been there. 

Sat in a restaurant on a hot date and the waiter hands you the wine list.  The success of this meal, this date, your future with this vision of beauty.  YOUR ULTIMATE SENSE OF SELF WORTH… all rests on the decisions you make in the next few minutes.

Really?  No, of course not really.  And I guess that leads to my first essential piece of advice.  Relax – wine’s a drink and it’s meant to be enjoyable.  It’s also a shared experience so why not kick off by asking if she’d like to choose the wine or is she happy to go with your judgement - such as it is?  (self-deprecating humour.  You irresistible rogue).  

She’s left it to you?  Of course she has – that’s because you’ve shown a bit of humility and now you’re exuding a quiet air of confidence.  Second piece of advice – don’t be afraid to ask for help from the waiter but be ready to be decisive.  Dithering and appearing flustered isn’t a good look bro.

Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. If there’s something unusual on the wine list then give it a whirl.  If the sommelier has put a Bulgarian wine on the menu then it’s there for a reason – chances are it won’t be duff.  One of my favourite finds for our shop last year was a Greek Malagouzia.  Heard of it?  No, neither had I.  In a word – lush.  Even if your unusual choice turns out to be a bit rank you’ve shown that you’re willing to be adventurous, to take a bit of a risk and you don’t take life too seriously.  Winning…definitely winning.
  2. Don’t worry too much about wine and food pairing – an awful lot of guff has been written on this topic.  Just pick a wine you like and have an eye on what might be a bit of a clash.  You already know that a really heavyweight red like Shiraz might be a bit much for a piece of delicately poached fish don’t you?  You see – you’re on a roll!
  3. With due regard for tip number 2, if you are having crab and you see Muscadet on the menu then look no further.  Just order it and thank me later.  You’re having lobster?  Then go straight to the French section and ask the waiter to point out a nice buttery (rich) Burgundy.  
  4. If you’re feeling a bit uncertain then Pinot Noir is your middle weight, versatile friend that won’t let you down.  Ideally choose something from Europe.  Think in terms of France or Italy (might be listed as Pinot Nero).  It’s not going to be too heavy and it’s not going to be too tannic so no furry teeth to worry about.
  5. If you’re feeling a bit uncertain part 2: “Are you happy to just stick with fizz?”  Who could argue with that question?  You’re cruising dude.
  6. A word on New World (Australia, New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc.  Look – it’s got its place and I sell loads of the stuff.  But you can do better than that.  Its fruity acidity works really well with salty cheese dishes so if you’re opted for a goats cheese starter then knock yourself out.  But otherwise live a little and choose something else.
  7. Don’t worry too much about vintages but, as a general rule, a wine that’s too young has fewer risks than a wine that’s too old.  2015 was a great year for winemaking throughout all of Europe and you can expect a wine that’s bright, fresh and young.  You can also drop into conversation that you read that 2015 was a good vintage if you really must.  But you don’t want to be “that” guy… do you?