Many of us fear ordering wine at restaurants. Many are afraid of selecting a bad bottle; some don’t want to appear ignorant by asking the sommelier questions; few fear the awkwardness of mis-pronunciating the foreign names. Instead of running away, why not turn this into an opportunity to charm your guests.
The success factor is very simple – understand your guests’ preference. Charm your guests by putting them first. Remember, the chances of finding a bottle they like are highest when you know their preferences. Simply ask them three questions to narrow down the selection:
o Do you prefer bubbly?
o Are you thinking of ordering meat or seafood?
o Do you like full or light bodied wine?
If they prefer bubbly, the selection is easy – go for a bottle of Champagne. Champagne is always a great bottle to start any event.
The second question narrows down the color of the wine. The general rule of thumb is that red wine goes well with red meat; and white goes well with seafood. For the knowledge hungry – a tannic red wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Syrah will mellow up (become “smoother” and easier to drink) with red meat. Acidic whites such as Sauvignon Blanc enhance the flavoring of a creamy dish and lighten that of a salty dish.
The third question helps select a variety of red or white wine. There are many different wine varietals; though most restaurants will carry the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio.
If your guests prefer full bodied red, go for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Chardonnay is a fuller bodied white.
For a lighter bodied red, go for Pinot Noir. For a lighter bodied white, go for Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
If you guests are unconventional and venturing – i.e. want to order steak but pair with a white – try pairing steak with a full-bodied Chardonnay. Or if they prefer fish but want to pair with a red, then Pinot Noir could be a good partner.
Last but not least, if the occasion is important to you, it may be worthwhile to do your homework in advance. There are two things you can do –
o Spend 15 minutes online learning wine basics. BetterTastingWine.com offers free and easy online wine lessons on useful topics (e.g. wine tasting techniques, wine varieties, wine and food pairing principal)
o Call the restaurant in advance and ask them to fax you the wine menu. Then do a quick research to select a good bottle of red and a good bottle of white
Factoring your guests’ preferences in mind, even if the bottle turns out bad, they will still be impressed by your thoughtfulness.