Friday, November 26, 2010

Restaurant Wine Strategies

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror--turkey’s sliced and frozen and packed away for a month’s worth of sandwiches, the kitchen no longer looks like FEMA needs to condemn it, and the sale-mad crowds have begun their annual search for bargains--most of us would probably love a night out. At a restaurant. Eating food and drinking wine that doesn’t require our own planning and clean-up.

Which is why the short piece that Alan Richman wrote this past September in GQ, on tips for ordering wine in restaurants, is so timely, even nearly three months after it initially ran. Because now that the holiday season is fully upon us, and now that the cold weather and early-setting sun and free-spending nature of the next month or so provides us with all the reason we really need to splurge on a bottle or three of wine at dinner, some strategies will prove helpful.

Richman recommends some standard pieces of advice here, like always having the confidence to tell the sommelier when you think the wine may not be up to snuff, or not sniffing the cork when it’s presented to you, or not slurping loud enough for the people three tables away to hear you. But there are some less-commonly heard ones too. And to his words of wisdom, I’d also add five of my own:

Try wines from out of the way regions that you’ve never heard of before; discovery equals joy.

Start off with something to whet your appetite, like a bone-dry Fino Sherry.

Don’t get roped into the great-vintage hype; ask for an off-vintage wine from a favorite region and see how it shows.

Scan the wine list for half-bottles and order several different ones; mixing and matching wines and dishes throughout a meal is a lot of fun and a great education.

End the meal with a digestif: Grappa, amaro...anything to settle your stomach after eating a lot of food. (If you do this, have someone else drive home.)


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