You have to pick the wine. Now what?

Happy Weekend,

If you asked me to name the #1 fear of wine learners, I’d say:

Being asked to pick the wine for a group dinner.

By far, this is one of the most common questions I get.

So if you’re scared to put your knowledge to the test and order that bottle, fear not. You are not alone.

Picking wine for the table can be thrilling. You only need to do a few things to get it right.

1) Orient Yourself to the Wine List’s Layout

2) Consider the Group’s Choices and Preferences

3) Be Confident in Your Choice

1) Orient Yourself to the Wine List’s Layout

Most wine lists are different. So before you panic, take a few seconds to understand the layout.

  • Where are the wines by the glass?
  • How is the list organized: by country/region, by variety, something else?

Flip through the pages, and people will think you’re just making an informed decision. You’ll earn their trust.

After you understand the layout, you’ll want to get a handle on price.

  • How much do different wines cost?
  • Where can you find value?

You should know the price of few bottles so you can figure out the markup. I wrote another article about doing your homework before you even get to the restaurant.

But the big key to finding value: zig where people zag.

For example, let’s use a steakhouse: avoid Cabernet Sauvignon.

Why? Because everyone goes for that. Look at Merlot or Zinfandel, they aren’t fashionable, but odds are they are available. Again, my go to pick: Ridge.

2) Consider the Group’s Choices and Preferences

To consider the group, let’s stick with the steakhouse example from above.

People are here for the meat. But what do you do if someone is having fish?

There’s a classy move you can pull. You say to Mr. Fish:

“I’m ordering this amazing Zinfandel for the table, and I think you’ll love it. But, it might not go great with your fish. So, do you want to order a white by the glass for your meal?”

Potential problem solved, and you put the pairing pressure back on them. Politely too.

If you have a meal with lots of different foods and tough pairings, here are my two recommendations:

  1. For a white wine, pick champagne. It never fails.
  2. For red, look for a light red in the by the glass section. This will hint at something that plays with a majority of the dishes. You can order the bottle or find something similar in the wine list.

3) Be Confident in Your Choice

Once you pull the rip cord, you need to commit. If you’ve put in the work with all your wine study, then you know enough about wine to make an educated choice.

Embrace this is as a true test.

I’ll never forget the one time I waffled on a wine pick. I threw it back to the somm, and he ended up suggesting something different. I accepted, and I was disappointed.

It wasn’t because the wine wasn’t good, but because I still wonder if my gut choice would have been better.

You’re going to make mistakes, but if you never bet on yourself, you won’t learn anything.

That’s a wrap on today’s lesson. But if you ever need wine help at the restaurant or at home, I’m here for you. Just reply to this email

Your friendly wine tutor,


P.S. – Don’t forget about your mom this weekend. Here are some wine gift ideas for her and all the amazing moms in your life.

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