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Reading Between The Wines

The sommelier hands you (a wine novice) an encyclopedic wine menu that is thicker than your wallet.

By Jan Walsh

Whether the motive of mastering a menu is to woo a date or just avoid embarrassment, learn to order wines with competence and confidence.

Food and wine pairings are no longer simply an arranged marriage of light whites for fish dishes and heavy reds with meat. So ask personal preference of others at the table. But this will not likely get you off the hook-as most don't want that hot potato (wine list) passed on to them. Unless of course, your wine snob buddy is present, but asking him would open up a lesson that could last until the last drop.

Consider your budget, a wine's reputation, and origin of the food. Then decide between red or white, which likely cuts the list in half. Go with a wine from the same region as the restaurant's food specialty. A good Italian restaurant, for instance, should have a nice selection of Italian wines. And narrow that selection to a couple of options before seeking their descriptions from the server.

See "Wine Tasting Tips" archived at the bottom of Sipping page for advice on what to do when the sommelier arrives with the bottle and pours a taste for you.

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