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8 Tips on how to choose a wine

When travelling abroad do you feel uncomfortable when handed a wine list in a restaurant?  If yes, this is normal so don’t worry. It is not necessary be a wine expert to order good wine, neither is it necessary to order the second cheapest, something many people do and is usually a bad idea.

Here are 8 tips on how to choose a wine when travelling

  1. Wine lists are a great way to start conversations or breaking the ice whether you are in the company of friends or a business associates. So use the list to find out what wines other people like to drink.
  2. Don’t rush. If the waiter or shop attendant asks ‘Which wine would you like?’ and you are not ready, a good way to engage their help is by saying, “you have a really interesting selection, give me a couple of minutes”.
  3. Through a quick process of elimination you can reduce the list a few wines.  To start, red or white?  There goes half the list. What are you going to eat?  Fish or meat, traditional or classic? Lunch or dinner? A light aromatic white for lunch maybe better than a full bodied red?  Don’t choose the super expensive very well known top wines, save those for another day.  Now the list is significantly reduced.
  4. As readers of this column you are by now familiar with many of the classic grape varieties of the world.  In a cosmopolitan city like London the wine lists will are diverse with wines from everywhere. So look out for varieties that you recognise such Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.
  5. Part of the experience eating out, when travelling to a another country, is to experiment. It is usually a good idea to try a something local.  For example, if you are in Vienna in Austria, definitely ask for a Grüner Veltliner.
  6. How much do you want to spend?  Its up to you, depending on how many are in the group and the occasion but as you can now see a large wine list is now a much more manageable.
  7. Having eliminated most of the list you are left with a small selection, so when your waiter returns rather than asking, “What do you recommend?”,  it is better to ask “Do you know about this wine?”. Why? because in most cases if they are not familiar wit hit they should send someone over who does and then you can make a choice.
  8. If you find a wine that looks interesting use an App such as Vivino to check out what others have thought of it.

Nowadays in any good restaurant, no matter where it is, the wine selection should not be a minefield. If you are in Greece or Germany, for example, where lists can be indecipherable, it can be a challenge but by following these steps I hope that it will be easier.

Remember, keep broadening your horizons of wine.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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