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Taking the fear out of ordering wine

The Wine Couple, special to the Tribune

If you’re like most people, you are handed a nice leather bound restaurant wine list and panic begins to set in as you try to choose what to order. Following a few simple rules can have you ordering wine like a pro and is sure to impress your dinner companions.

If the restaurant has a sommelier (soh-mell-yay), the proper name for a wine steward, ask them to guide you through choosing an appropriate wine for your meal. A good sommelier will know which wines on their list pair well with their menu items.

If not, ask the waiter what they recommend. Even if the extent of their knowledge is that they have white and red wine, they should know what is popular. If this fails, you may wish to look somewhere in the middle of the wine list price range and select a variety that you like.



If you’re still confused, a safe bet is cabernet sauvignon or merlot for a hearty red and chardonnay for a white.

Tell the waiter with a confident tone, “I think we’ll have a bottle of the Chateau Medium Priced.”




Now that you have ordered the wine the real fun begins. You are ready to show the waiter and your guests that you know wine! When the waiter brings you the bottle he should hold it for you to inspect the label. Make sure that it is the wine you ordered.

The waiter will then open the bottle and may hand you the cork. Many people think this is the point you should smell the cork. They are wrong. The only thing a cork smells like is cork and will not give you a clue to what is in the bottle. Set the cork on the table and forget it.

Let the waiter pour you a small sample that you should hold at a 45-degree angle and inspect the wine for clarity. Ponder the wine for several seconds while looking intently at the wine against the tablecloth. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it will impress everyone.

Next, swirl the glass for about 3 seconds and take a really good sniff of the wine. If the wine smells fruity, you can taste the wine and nod for the waiter to pour it for the table. If the wine smells of moldy hay or wet cardboard, send it back. The wine has what is known as cork taint and even the best wines can be affected.

Cork taint affects approximately 3 percent of all wines and is a valid reason for asking for another bottle. Most restaurants will gladly exchange the bottle since they can always send it back to the distributor.

You now have the basic tools you need to stand up to any waiter and show the world that you will not be intimidated by a 40-pound wine list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Here are some of our favorite wines to pair with turkey and all the fixings. The champagne and the riesling will go great with appetizers and salads. The chardonnay and the pinot noir are rich and full enough to hold up to the main entrZes.

Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine — aromas of peach, cherry and strawberries leading to a taste of soft fruits and roasted nuts. ($14)

Trefethen 2001 Estate Napa Valley dry riesling — lingering scents of flowers, apple and citrus with vibrant acidity and a hint of sweetness. ($12)

La Crema 2001 Sonoma Coast chardonnay — citrus, pear and green apple aromas combine with oak for a crisp balanced wine. ($12)

Estancia Pinnacles 2000 Monterey pinot noir — vibrant aromas of cherry, strawberry, supple oak and leather carry through to the taste. Great value for a quality pinot noir. ($13)

Roger and Colleen Stockton are wine educators and consultants based in Northern Nevada. They can be reached at (775) 882-7324 or WineCouple@InnovativeWine.com


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