5 TIPS & 5 WINES
1. Always smell your glassware in a restaurant and be exigent of its cleanliness. I know it sounds barbaric to stuff one’s nose in a glass upon sitting down at a table, but I’ve had too many good bottles of wines ruined by a cardboard-like smell. The common culprit for this in restaurants is usually the dishwashing machine, and it has a knack for malfunctioning at the most inopportune times!
2. Most great white wines, especially younger ones, benefit from aeration in a carafe. It has been my experience that this is most effective with wines from cooler climates like French wines from Touraine-Anjou, Alsace and Burgundy but also German, Austrian and some Italian wines. It seems that these wines with naturally higher acidity, (The warmer the region the more alcoholic, fuller bodied, and as a result lower in acidity a wine is), get softer, showing more of their subtleties as they open up in a carafe. For most great producers I recommend a good half hour in a decanter before serving.
3. Speak to the Sommelier or Wine Steward. Most good wine stewards are in it for passion, a love of wine, and usually a love for food. The sommelier profession has evolved a lot in the last 20 years and it’s time to stop thinking of it as a bunch of snobs waiting to make you feel like an ignorant in front of your date. Sommeliers are wine lovers just as you are and would only be glad to give their 2-cents about the list they so lovingly created if you only asked them. They know the intricacies of the chef’s cooking and they tasted and bought the wines. To let a sommelier discreetly know how much you want to spend, point to any wine on the list in your price range and then engage in a conversation with him about your tastes and what you like to drink.
4. When you get to a restaurant check out the wine by the glass list and order something from it. A good wine by the glass list is a reflection of the whole effort of the wine program (and should not only be filled with expensive prize labels); they are a harbinger of things to come. Chances are that if the wine by glass selection is interesting, the wine list will be filled with serious, quality conscious producers’ wines.
5. If you’re planning to drink rare or old wines in a restaurant (and this doesn’t mean expensive, as this could be a “Pagani Ranch Late Harvest” ’92 from Ridge or some other curiosity) , call the sommelier ahead. Talk about the offerings on the wine list and it will be his pleasure to prepare your wines in advance if need be. This can mean standing the bottle up a few days before consumption so the sediment can settle down; or decanting –or aerating- some wines prior to the guest arriving at the table. Your experience as a customer will be greatly enhanced if the wines you are served are correctly prepared.
5 WINES under $20 I’ve enjoyed drinking recently:
1. Cotes-du-Rhone-Rasteau “Cuvee Paul Emile”, Domaine Bressy-Masson 2000
2. Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2002
3. Chateau d’Aighille, Cotes-de-Castillon 2001
4. Bourgogne-Chardonnay “Les Herbeux”, Domaine Roger Caillot 2000
5. Cold Heaven Viognier “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” 2000