5 Tips for Picking Wine from a Wine List

We’ve all been there.  You sit down for a business dinner or an anniversary party and everyone turns to you…”Carley, you love wine, which one should we pick?  This is your thing!”

Fast forward to face flushing and thinking crap, what do I pick?  What if it’s bad? What if everyone hates it?

You would think that a wine lover enjoys going to a restaurant and looking through a wine list pages long. However, most of the wine enthusiasts I know dislike coming across a massive restaurant wine list.  Simply put, there are too many bottles to choose from, and not enough time to make your decision. When the pressure is on, I have a tendency to pick the same bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon because I am comfortable with it.  Rather than trying to sort through a list of unfamiliar wines.

One of my goals for this year is to stop settling for the “safe” wines. So, I’ve consolidated a list of simple tips to get you through it, flushed face free.

#1: Buy More Time

When you’re first presented with the wine list, it’s a good idea to ask your waiter or sommelier for more time to look at it. Ask them for some waters to start. The water won’t impact your palate, and it buys you some extra time to make your wine selection.

#2: Decide on a Style

Determine if your ideal bottle is going to be white or red.  Full-bodied, medium, or light. You might have been dreaming up a wine style before you step into the restaurant.  Or, have a change in heart based on what meal you decide and then choose your wine based on that.

#3: Start at the Back of the List

Restaurants usually put interesting one-off bottles or New World wines toward the back of the list.  They assume the majority of customers will want to have something familiar, so they’ll position American and New World Wines at the very beginning. Save yourself time by going right to the back of the list, then working your way toward the front. Even if you don’t make it all the way through the list, you’ll still have at least one wine in mind when it’s time to order, and it’s more likely to be a unique one than if you’d started at the front.

#4: Use Wine Apps to Finalize Your Choice

Apps like VinCellar and Wine Searcher allow you to search through a database of thousands of wines.  You won’t have time to search each one on the restaurant’s wine list, however if you’ve narrowed it down to a few this will be very helpful to make the final call.  You can also look at recent tasting notes so you’ll know to skip it based on what your peers are saying about it.

#5: When in Doubt, Ask Your Sommelier

Just remember, they can’t help you if you’re not sure what type of wine you’re feeling at that moment.  Be as specific as possible. Let them know which wines you were thinking of trying and let them help you from there. Share the ones you’ve looked up on the app as well.  This way they’ll know what styles you prefer and this allows them to pick a wine that’s absolutely perfect for you.

Happy wine-picking!

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