The Wine List Won’t Bite



What do a romantic dinner with your partner, a business lunch, and a family celebration all have in common? They all usually happen at the same place: a restaurant.

While it’s sometimes easy to choose what you want to eat, it can also be difficult to decide between the different menu options when they make you salivate like Pavlov’s dogs just by reading them.

The real problem, however, comes when you’re the one responsible for picking the wine. You open the wine list apprehensively, already knowing you’ll be faced with a list featuring two different columns. There’s the left-hand one, with lots of letters forming words, some of which are understandable as names of brands or wine regions you recognize, while others may as well be written in Greek. Luckily, though, there’s the right-hand column, with little numbers that might not shed much light on the wine in question, but do tell us how much it will cost.

The waiter is waiting to take your order. The guests are waiting for you to announce your choice. The pressure is mounting. You want to make it quick. You want to please everyone. Take a deep breath. Here are four tips to help you avoid going into panic mode!

First decision: Color. Red, white, or rosé?

“That’s easy!” you may be saying, but if you’re in a group you might have to choose more than one. Remember that although the world of pairings has undergone a revolution, there are still some rules you should generally follow:

  • Rosés and whites are the best choice for rice and fideuà
  • If you have to pick more than one wine, start out with the lighter ones and finish on the ones with more body (or even pick two different whites).
  • Young reds, served a couple degrees cooler, might be a good option if you don’t want white or rosé.

How do you know if a wine is lighter or more full-bodied?

This is where it gets a bit trickier. Knowledge of grape varieties and the styles of the different designations of origin can be key, but we’ll share a little trick with you: Young wines with no aging—whether red or white—are always lighter than those that have been aged in barrels or on their lees. Wine lists are increasingly organized by wine type, which may provide some help in making your choice.

Remember that in general, one way of balancing wines and dishes is the strength or heartiness of the dish. Wines with more body and more robustness respect, accompany, and pair well with stronger and more substantial dishes, in addition to aiding with digestion. That’s why it’s more common to drink full-bodied reds during the fall and winter months than in the middle of summer.

What can you find out by looking at the right-hand column?

That’s an easy one: the price. But this can be useful in a way that’s probably different to what you’re thinking: If there’s a wine you know well on the wine list and you know what the price usually is, it can help you figure out whether the restaurant has marked up the prices of the wines a lot. This will be able to help you decide on wines with a better quality/price relationship. Personally, I usually stick to the mid-priced wines on the list. It’s where I’ve always found the best quality/price relationship, and it will always go down well with your guests.

Ask and listen.

Before you jump straight into choosing, ask your guests what kind of wine they like, what they normally drink, and listen to what they tell you. Making everyone happy isn’t as hard as it seems. A medium-bodied red wine like a good Merlot will please those who like more full-bodied wines as well as the fans of lighter wines. And if your guests are from out of town, look for a wine from a local winery, which everyone will be curious to try at least.

Who should you trust?

If you really feel lost and there’s a wine professional, such as a sommelier, at the restaurant, fear not. If you’re able to roughly explain the kind of wine you’re looking for, and you’re not afraid to talk about price, he or she will definitely be able to give you two or three recommendations so you can make the final call and get it right. We sommeliers are here to advise you and find the best wine for your needs—not to sell you the most expensive wine on the list.

You’ll see there’s no need to go into panic mode or hyperventilate when you’re handed the wine list. Take it firmly and open it up to the first page. It won’t bite!

Sergi Castro Solé


Categorías: Gastronomy