It has been said by some wise sage that 1% of people care way too much about wine and 99% of people don’t care enough. This rings true, and I thought it would be interesting to investigate why this is.
Most of my friends and peers drink wine. With sufficient regularity to alarm the British Medical Council in many cases. And most of them drink rubbish. Seriously – any £5 bottle will do the trick normally, and the second cheapest wine on the restaurant wine list is pretty much as far as they go.
This baffles me.
OK, so not everyone is going to spend a fortune on a wine collection, or consult Parker or Robinson for every wine buying decision, but it is really simple to drink more interesting wines without breaking the bank or having to do hours of painstaking research.Here are a few rules of thumb, aimed at buying wine in a restaurant (assuming it isn’t one of the growing numbers that allow you to BYO for a modest corkage).
1) The cheapest wines normally have the highest % mark-ups, and the second cheapest wine normally has the highest mark-up. Restaurateurs know how people make buying decisions, so be aware of the relative lack of value.
2) The first few wines on a list will have tendency to be ‘neutral’ in style, as they are likely to be bought to match all foods. One size fits all is not the best way to approach buying wine – think about what you are going to order.
3) Don’t be afraid to buy by the glass. Technology such as Coravin means a far wider array of wines can be sampled, so you can avoid just plumping for a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, or a bog standard Rioja, and narrowing your options. Why not order a suitable wine for every course of you meal?
4) Look for exotic grape varieties or little known regions – these are likely to be the sommelier’s attempts to stamp their expertise and personality on the wine list, and will likely be good value and interesting. Think Greece, Portugal, Austria, or regions like Swartland in South Africa or Salta in Argentina.
5) Embrace the joys of dessert wines. Seriously, sweet wines are amazing things that are criminally overlooked. A little bit of ‘sticky’ at the end of your meal is always a good thing!
6) If the restaurant has a sommelier, get their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions. These guys are there to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your meal.
Posted in: Fine wine appreciation,
Tags: fine wine, Jancis Robinson, ordering wine restaurant, Robert Parker, sommelier, wine, wine lover,