Don't be scared of the sommelier
Since I began writing Wineloon, I have noticed a change. All of a sudden my mates seem to think I am some sort of wine expert.
This phenomenon is most noticeable when it comes to ordering wine in a restaurant. Before Wineloon, my mates and I would all discuss the wine list on a pretty much even footing.
These days I am immediately handed the wine list. "You pick the wine, you're the expert".
And then they all just look at me. Waiting. Waiting for me to select the best wine they have ever tasted.
Then it happens.
They look at me with amazement and disappointment in equal measures. Exactly the way we looked at our primary teacher the first time they replied "I don't know" to one of our questions. "But... but... you're a teacher....you should know everything!"
This usually happens just after I ask the sommelier what is good on the wine list.
My friends look at me like I am some sort of fraud. "Why is he asking that guy? I thought he was supposed to be the expert?"
Here's where I fess up. I am not a wine expert. I am just an enthusiastic fan who happens to write about it. That sommelier probably knows more about wine than I do. And he definitely knows more about his wine list than I do.
So why wouldn't you ask the guy that has probably tasted all the wines on the list for help. The guy probably knows all the cost prices, all the mark-ups. He knows where the value is on the list.
Asking the sommelier to help you pick a wine is a no-brainer.
I know what wines I like, but I drink those at home. When I go out to a restaurant, I want to try something new. I want to know what the sommelier would order if he was in my seat. I want to know what he thinks will go with the meal I have just ordered.
And guess what, he'll enjoy helping you make that choice. Not only is it his job, but its probably his passion as well. Sommeliers don't get paid much, most of them do it because they love wine. And most wine lovers like to share their passion.
A lot of sommeliers will tell you that their pet hate is customers who don't ask their advice. When customers order the most well known wines, like Bordeaux or Rioja. Not only are these customers missing out on the more interesting wines but they are probably paying the biggest mark-ups too.
Next time you are in a restaurant staring blankly at a wine list, my advice is to ask the sommelier or waiter for help. Ask him what he would order. Tell him your budget. Tell him what you are eating. Tell him any particular likes or dislikes and then let him get on with it.
I guarantee you will get a wine that he is passionate about. It will probably be the best value wine with the lowest mark-up on the list. And best of all you will probably get to enjoy a wine you have never had before.
That's got to be worth paying three times the retail price, right?