You’re sitting across the table from her at a nice restaurant. Your palms are sweating. Your heart is racing. But you’re not saying “I love you” or trying to go in for that first kiss, you’re just trying to order something off the wine list without fu**ing it up. We’ve all been there. The good news? You don’t need to be a sommelier to make a good wine selection at a restaurant. With a little guidance and know-how, you’ll soon be ordering with confidence and impressing the heck out of your date.
When describing wines, people like to throw out words like “bold,” “dry” or “rich.” They like to talk about the different types of grapes and what would pair well with their fish or creamy pasta. If you find yourself in these conversations wondering what the hell they’re talking about, then this guide is for you.
Below, we’ve broken down the main types of wine, the dishes go well with each and the names of grapes/wines that you should be looking for when you order that dish. Cheers and you're welcome!
When you and your girl are craving something salty, go for a sparkling wine. From sushi and chicken to popcorn and French fries, you can’t go wrong with a little bubbly.
Feel like being healthy? Pair a dry white wine with vegetable-heavy dishes to open up the flavors. Try one of the below wines with flaky fish or chicken dishes that include a large portion of salad, sautéed vegetables or roasted vegetables.
If you’re looking to add a little spice to your date night with Indian, Thai or Chinese cuisine, balance the kick with something sweet. Sweet white wines will pair perfectly with the oily fish and chicken found in spicier dishes.
Maybe it’s raining outside and your girl wants to order hearty, comfort food. For things like creamy soups and pastas, risotto, quiche or almost anything French, stick with a rich white wine. It will take those stomach-warming flavors to the next level.
Believe it or not, this wine isn’t just for #basic you-know-whats. In fact, dry versions of the wine enhance what you taste in flavor-rich dishes. Pair one of the nice, dry rosés below with almost any meat found in Mediterranean, Moroccan or Indian dishes.
If you like to keep things simple with a straightforward dish, pair it with a light red wine. Cheese, creamy soups and pastas, white pizza and most hors d’oeuvres all go well with the wines below.
Roasted foods like duck, lamb, pork, sausage and vegetables are excellent with a medium red wine. Pick out one of the reds below to go with your roasted Italian or Spanish dish.
If you’re into rich, smoked or barbecued meats, go with an equally bold red wine. Beef, pork, venison, sausage, cured meat, you name it, it all goes well with the bold reds listed below. You just better hope your date isn’t a vegetarian.
Dinner is done, but you want the date to continue. When you go to order dessert, surprise her by ordering a sweet dessert wine to go with it. From cookies and cakes to soft cheeses and fruits, these wines will help finish out the meal strong.
You don’t need to spend $100 on a bottle to be the man. You just need to know that there’s a difference betweenprice andvalue. Finding that value pick on the wine menu is key.
One golden rule to live by when it comes to cost: Never choose the second cheapest bottle on the list.
With most things, it makes sense to go big or go home, but that’s not quite the case here. It’s human nature to not want to pick the cheapest bottle on the menu, but to get as close to it as possible. Restaurants know about this tendency and will mark up that second-priced tier much more than the bottles above and below it.
In our experience, wine directors take pride in the quality of their cheapest bottle, so that $35 one might not be a bad idea. However, moving up to the third or fourth tier on the menu is always a good option, too.
Bonus tip: Steer clear of a restaurant’s house wine unless you are in Napa, Florence or the like. These wines generally have the highest markup and the least intentionality in terms of quality and taste.
While price is a great tool to use when judging a bottle, it doesn’t always tell you the bottle’s truevalue. The geographic region where the wine was made, on the other hand, can tell you quite a lot about its quality and worth. Like many men, you probably know that Italy, France and California are the hot spots for winemaking, but restaurants know that you know that, and will price those bottles expecting popularity.
The tip here: Go for the lesser-known regions.
Next time you’re looking at a wine list, seek out these less-common regions:
While that can seem scary at first, rest assured that the bottles are on that carefully selected wine list for a reason. Plus, since those bottles won’t sell as quickly, restaurants won’t mark them up as much which means you get more bang for your buck.
It pays to be a little experimental in the wine department, especially when your date loves your adventurous decision.
If after all this, you’re still staring blankly at the wine menu like it’s written in a foreign language, then bring in your safety. There are a handful of wines that go well with just about everything and have a track record for being great. Try ordering any of our tried-and-true favorites below.
The thing about wine knowledge is that a little bit goes a long way. With these tips to help you navigate a wine menu, assess the value of a bottle and take risks that pay off, you’ll be ordering like a pro in no time. Plus, beyond impressing your date with your excellent wine-selecting abilities, you might just impress yourself.