Our latest wine tasting was called "8 wines to know before you die!" a catchy and spooky name around Halloween time to get you to focus on the major grapes that will make you a pro when reading a wine list.
Very often when in a restaurant the experience of dealing with the wine list can be intimidating. Would it be because you are the only French person on the table and they will assume it's in your DNA.. even though in London it's very often also new world and you have no idea what a Torrentes is.. or because it's a date and you want to impress.. and also make sure you are not leaving your monthly rent on that dinner bill.
How to read a wine list? What should you know? First let's get to the basics..instead of appellations or regions let's focus on grapes. I am sure you remember a few grapes that you like would it be for the catchy name "Chardonnay" or because you liked the taste.. maybe a Malbec. Well it's a good start! Knowing your basic grapes will help you read clearly the wine list. Of course there will be names you have never heard of "Savagnin" maybe so unless you are feeling adventurous and have a sommelier at hand go for the basics! Focus on finding what you remembered and what you liked. That should be a good first step.
Last night we focused on chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, syrah and Sauternes for the sweet wine... Why this choice? Well if you nail your classics you can always ask for recommendations on those grapes across regions in the world where you spot something in your budget. Or ask for a wine with a flavour profile of on of your favourite grape as it's something that should suit your taste.
Knowing that a classic Riesling will have some residual sugar and maybe low alcohol and body will mean that you know it's not something to order for you if you are a fan of full body dry wines with a floral profile. So you can process by matching your taste or by elimination.. kicking out what you don't like is also a good start!
And when you get to nailing your basics you will know where in the world there is a likelihood of getting more sun which means more ripeness for the grapes and ultimately more alcohol in the wine... baby steps we said.. the world of wine doesn't have to be intimidating it just have to be well communicated in our view.