The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Date Wines

Posted on | July 23, 2010 | Written by Francesco Vigorito | No Comments

Looking at a wine list can sometimes be daunting task, especially if you’re clueless about wine. So many regions, styles, varieties and prices stare you in the face. Red or white? Cheap or expensive? French or Italian? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Whether you’re a girl or a guy, choosing the right bottle can earn you a couple of notches of respect. If you’re going on a dinner date, lack much wine knowledge, and don’t want to look like a fool when ordering a bottle, you might want to do a little research first. See if you can check out the restaurant’s wine list online to gain some prior knowledge. Similarly, finding out what type of wine your date likes (fuller or lighter, fruity or earthy, oak or no oak) will make choosing much easier. The bottom line in choosing a “good” wine is taking the initiative—and knowing about what’s available, what your dining companion enjoys, and what all those names on a wine list mean. If you can’t access an online wine list, then you are going to have to wing it.

Step 1/Preferences: Ask your date his or her preference before you place the order. Never pick the cheapest or the most expensive wine; go for something in between.

Step 2/The Wines: I often like to start out with some Prosecco. It’s youthful, fresh and bubbly character is perfect match for conversation and appetizer, and its residual sugar makes it user-friendly; you really can’t go wrong. White wines offer lots of options for you and your date. For a fuller, low acid, creamy wine, look to California and Australia for some Chardonnay and Viognier. If you’re in the mood for an aromatic, expressive, lean wine with sassy acidiy and a natural affinity for food, head to France’s Loire Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc wines or to Germany for their dry Riesling. It’s expensive, but Burgundy’s take on Chardonnay is sexy, seductive, and elegant. Try Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Pinot Grigio from Italy for whites that fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. More expansive than whites are reds, and if you’re date favors wines from the ruby end of the spectrum, you might choose a full, warm and viscous, oak scented wine from California, Australia, or Spain. It’s tough to go wrong with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir. Out of these varietals, Pinot Noir would be the friendliest because of its gorgeous fruit, elegant stature and polished mouth feel. It’s definitely a great date wine, and it’s always a smart way to gauge the tastes of your partne,  because you can always hop up to a Merlot, a Cabernet, or Syrah—or dial it down with a Gamay from Beaujolais.

Spain’s Tempranillo, Grenache, Graciano and Mourvedre are full-bodied wines with higher alcohol and bolder fruit. The Provence and the Languedoc Roussillon region of south France give hearty, full wines with great value. Elegant reds require you to head to the Old World of France and Italy. Generally lighter in body, and higher in acidity and earthiness, these wines are great to pair with food. Italy’s Barbera and Dolcetto will satisfy your tastes for tart, berry fruit, a medium body and a low level of tannin, while the Cabernet Franc grape from the Loire Valley offers earthy fruit and fresh acidity. For optimal pairing with pasta, you don’t have to look any further than a nice, lean Chianti; its typical Sangiovese bite and dusty tannins make pasta sing.

Step 3/Confidence: No matter what you do, try to look confident when ordering wine, even if you are clueless. If lost, you can simply ask the waiter to choose a wine that would go nicely with your meal—there is no shame in asking for help. Above all, remember that drinking wine will help you learn and help you choose. Whether the date goes splendidly well or tanks epically well, you can always count on the wine to teach you something new and tasty.

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