A quick guide on how to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
You’re at the table. The drinks menu is put before you. Your boyfriend is not big on wine, but having wine with your dinner is just, you know.. more romantic. How do you respond to make it seem like you totally know what you’re talking about?
I spoke with Zachary Tay, Senior Sales Executive at Enoteca Co, Ltd. is a dude who has 17 years of kitchen and sommelier experience under his belt- and here are some quick conversation starters you can use!
1.) Red or white?
Tell your date that the maxim of “red wine with red meat, and white wine with white meat” is as aged as a whiskey cask . So instead of matching colours, try to match tastes. All you need to remember is:
White wine = sweet foods (food with natural sweetness like salads, starters, cured meats, seafood, desserts)
Red wine = salty foods (light-bodied reds for foie gras and poultry, and most reds for pork, beef, lamb)
Do say: “You can either let your food decide your wine or let your wine decide your food”
Don’t say: “…eh, can ask the waiter for some ice put into my wine or not?”
Wine prices are determined by a number of factors such as age, grape variety and origin. If you have a budget and would like to stick to it, yet you’re unsure of which wine variety to order (and at the same time trying hard not to appear like a cheapskate), try this subtle trick:
- Start with making your mind if its going to be a red or white.
- Then scan the restaurant’s wine list for the price range that you are comfortable with.
- While the server or sommelier is taking your order, point to the wine item(s) in your chosen price range and say, “I’m looking for wine of this range.” This is normally a cue for your sommelier to recommend wine that will complement your meal and be within your budget.
Do say: “..i’m trying to achieve the best dining experience for your date“.
Don’t say: “…wah lau, this one NTUC Fairprice sell only $20 leh…”
3.) The wine is here, what do I do?
This is the usual practice for serving wine:
- Sommelier shows you the wine bottle that you have ordered.
- Wine bottle is unscrewed in front of you.
- Sommelier pours a sample for a “taste test”. It is customary that the person who ordered the wine is the one who “tests” it.
Upon approval, server pours for the lady first then the gentleman. Bottle is left at your table. If you’re having red wine, you should swirl it around a little to let the wine “breathe”. It gets pretty scientific here but all you need to remember is that there is a chemical reaction between the wine and the oxygen that unlocks the wine’s full aroma and taste.
Do say: “I like my wine like I like my men – strong bodied, spicy and possess the ability to pry answers out of my heart”
Don’t say: “…eh, why the waiter ask you to smell the cork ah? Why ah?”
4.) How do I “talk wine”?
To really sound like a pro, here are a few words you need to know to start describing your experience. (adapted from http://www.poortastemag.com/vino-101-your-crash-course-in-wine-lingo/)
Acidity – the tartness generally at the end of the wine, similar to eating citrus fruits. High acidity causes your mouth to produce tons of saliva, making the wine food-friendly. Well-integrated and natural acid (some winemakers add artificial acid) can lengthen the life of a wine.
Balance – the general poise of flavors in the wine — tannins, fruit, acidity, earthiness, spice — so that none stand out over others. Well-integrated wines indicate a well-made wine.
Blend – also called cepage in French, this refers to wine which is a mix of two or more grape varietals or types (i.e. Syrah and Grenache blend). These ‘mutts’ are no worse than single-varietal wines and can often be more balanced and better wines.
Body – the heft of the flavors determined by the grape varietal, age, and alcohol content; a heavy bodied wine is rich with prominent flavors like a Cabernet Sauvignon while a lighter bodied wine is delicate and often easier to drink like a Sauvignon Blanc.
Dry – not sweet. These wines are fermented until the yeast has converted all the residual sugar to alcohol from the crushed grapes in the wine making process. Dry wines can run the gamut of flavors from nutty, to acidic, to fruity, but all are void of the viscous sugar found in sweet wines.
Finish – to describe how the wine lingers in your mouth after you have swallowed; the last flavors and textures of a wine. The higher the quality, the longer lasting the finish
Fruit-forward –These wines have fruit notes as the primary flavor on your tongue and nose and can describe fruit in its many conditions: fresh, ripe, cooked, juiced, or jammed.
Mouth-feel – describes the richness or thinness of a wine, often determined by aging process.
Nose – What a wine smells like. Smelling a wine is generally done after a quick swirl and just before drinking. The smell has a surprisingly large impact on the full effect of a wine.
Palate – the flavors, textures, and complexity of a wine that are present upon tasting the wine.
Do say: “I love this Merlot! It doesn’t sacrifice flavor as soon as it hits the palate, let’s do another bottle!”
Don’t say: “…eh, they all taste same one leh!”
5.) Another bottle?
Good news for alcoholics everywhere! It’s perfectly fine to mix! You can have a glass of white wine with your starters, a glass of red for your lamb and then another glass of white to complement your desserts. If you’re planning to do this, we recommend opting to order by the glass and not by the bottle – it’s really embarrassing to get pissed drunk!
If you really want to go all out and surprise your boyfriend, try this: When calling restaurants for reservations, request to have the sommelier call you back (if they have one). Plan your entire meal and wine selection with the sommelier before hand for a flawless execution. You may even pass the restaurant your credit card details to have them arrange for the payment before your actual date – no bill at the end of the dinner, less awkward and more girlfriend points!
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