5 Simple Steps to Choosing Wine off of a Menu

Okay guys, so something I thought might be fun to go over today is actually how to choose wine off of a restaurant menu. So many people feel intimidated by doing this because there are so many options with wine. Plus, it isn’t like a cocktail where you can read the ingredients and think ” Oh ya, that one sounds good.” Instead, you sort of have to learn by trial and error.

Wine is probably John and I’s drink of choice. We have learned a lot from John’s parents and as a result, John himself is extremely passionate about wine. For me, I still feel as if I have a lot to learn, but I think that is the fun thing with wine because there are always new blends, new wineries, new regions to try. You never really master wine (unless your a Master Sommelier), so it has been a fun hobby for us to explore more than just your everyday typical brands.

I feel as if a lot of people steer away from wine because there can be so many options to choose from, but today John and I sat down together and wrote out just how we would a tell a friend to choose wine, to hopefully help all of you feel a little less intimidated and begin to embrace all that the wine world has to offer!

Here we have broken it down into five easy steps. This is not a guarantee on choosing a wine you  are going to love, but that is the fun thing about wine is that you never really know what you are going to like until you start trying.

Step 1: Do you like reds or whites? Simple question and maybe you don’t know the answer, which is 100% okay. You can still move on to the next step.

Step 2: Do you want a bottle or glass? Some wines may only be offered by the bottle, so this can eliminate options.

Step 3: What region do you like? This is a little bit harder, but here you are trying to figure out if you like US wines, French wines, Italian wines, etc? Once you are able to figure out a region you like, you can always go back that region. If you aren’t sure, that is okay and I think this would be where a lot of people get nervous and say forget it, but here (for John and I at least), this is where wine tasting can get super fun. When we want to try a new region, we always ask ourselves, where we would like to visit! For example, I think France is beautiful and would love to travel there at some point, so lately we have been trying different French wines. In doing this, you are able to essentially try a taste of that culture without really being there. We prefer to go by region instead of grape because grapes are going to taste so different dependent on where they are coming from. So, for this step, look over the list and ask yourself if you have been to any of the countries or regions listed. If you haven’t, then ask yourself if there is a region or country you would LIKE to visit. Then go with that. There is no right or wrong here and that is what is so remarkable about wine. To find what you like, you have to TASTE. As you begin tasting wines, you will develop a palate for what areas you like and don’t like and what types of grapes you like and don’t like.

Step 4: Look at the vintage or year. Currently some of the best years out are 2013 and 2015 in John and I’s opinion. We feel those years are always safe bets. Because we drink a lot of French wine, we know that from there 2015 and 2016 are super good.  But here is a safe rule of thumb – typically go older by at least two years from the current year, but no more than 10 years (at least until you develop your palate more). That will give you a good starting point. Every year or vintage will taste different because the weather was different each of those years the grapes were grown.

Step 5: Enjoy and take note of the grape, region and year you choose. We use the app Vivino to track every bottle we drink. John likes to add little notes there, but this way we can always refer back to it if there is something we are craving.

Want to learn even more about wine? There is a Netflix documentary called Somm. It has two seasons if you will. The first one is all about what a sommelier is and how to become a master sommelier. It is super interesting and follows some people that are interested in pursuing that and all that they have to learn. The second one is even better in my opinion though and breaks wine down into 10 basic steps. The goal is to help make wine less intimidating to those that may steer clear of it or only choose common wine names because they feel inadequate when it comes to choosing and exploring. It is very well produced and covers a ton of really great information. I would say that is the first place I would start if you would like to learn more!

In the end, wine is all about trying different things and can be a constant learning process. It is so fun to get to taste different cultures through their wine and so many winemakers feel that each bottle they produce is like a piece of art. John and I have had so much fun tasting the world in this way, and we always love to continue learning about wine. I hope this guide helps to make you feel less intimidated and realize there really isn’t any right or wrong answer. Just remember to try lots of wines and be adventurous. The best way to learn is by tasting!


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