While dining out recently with friends I was handed the wine list and instructed, “You’re the wine expert, you pick.” Thrust upon me was a wine list the size of a coffee-table book that belonged more to an encyclopedic set than the accompanying partner to the humble two paged food menu.
If you were handed a wine list so large that if you dropped it you’d dent the floor, how would you pick?
Do you enthusiastically dive in and devour every page like it’s a page turning novel, conversing with the Sommelier in a game of wine knowledge knockout or, do you feel completely overwhelmed and rushed into making a snap decision that more often then not leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth and a hole in your wallet?
If you’re the latter we’re here to help. Our five easy steps to demystifying even the most complex wine list will lead you to a successful and rewarding wine selection every time.
1. Take your time – start with an aperitif, everyone has their favourites and can order their own. This will allow you time to work your way through the wine list with care and enjoyment.
2. Determine what type of food is served and what your table plans on eating. Are you choosing seafood, white or red meat? Is the food light or heavier in flavour? This will help narrow your choices immensely, with the food being an almost direct reflection to the wines descriptive. For example:
White meats and fish = white wine
Red meat = red wine
Lighter flavours = lighter varietals such as Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir or Merlot
Heavier flavours = bolder, denser varietals such as oaked Chardonnay, Bordeaux or Shiraz.
Of course this is very general, there are always exceptions and some surprising combinations. A rich salmon dish pairs wonderfully with Pinot Noir and a creamy Chardonnay is the perfect pairing with smoked or roasted light meats.
3. Decide on your budget and look within the varietals previously selected as to what is on offer.
4. Next, try not to play it safe. Move past the labels you know and have already tried, especially if you tend to drink them at home for a quarter of the price. You’re out and are certainly paying for the experience, live a little!
5. Lastly, if you still feel uncertain ask for assistance, the Sommeliers in Hong Kong are second to none and are there to help. Just a quick word to the wise, be bold and have the courage to speak up for what it is you truly want from your wine; Sommeliers are there to help but they’re also there to sell.
Let me leave you with a few suggestions for your next dining pleasure of restaurants we feel have great wine lists and top shelf Sommeliers that are knowledgeable, approachable and who strive for great customer service.
ZUMA – Landmark, Level 5 & 6, 15 Queen’s Road Central HK, +852 36576388 – Head Sommelier, Samuel Davis.
SPOON – InterContinental Hotel, 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon HK +852 23132323 – Chief Sommelier, Mathieu Ginglardi
22 SHIPS – 22 Ship Street, WanChai HK +852 25550722 – Wine Guru, Josef Murray
See you around town and happy drinking!