What time of day do you want to drink? Where are you going? Who do you want to be with? Innocent, beverage director at Parker Restaurant Group in Chicago, wants to know.
He’s not curious. Question: So, what’s to drink? It sounds simple, but like everything with wine, it contains an infinite number of variables. There are no categorically perfect bottles that are guaranteed to suit everyone. Your personal taste, budget and intentions about how, where and when you plan to drink will determine which wines are best for you.
However, if you give your sommelier or retailer information about the selection, they are more likely to recommend a bottle that you like.
Gregory Innocent, corporate beverage director, Parker Restaurant Group / Courtesy of Hampton Social.
Start by sharing what you usually drink, suggests Regina Jones Jackson CSW, FWS, owner and chief wine consultant of Corks and Cuvee in Atlanta.
Do you usually buy Pinot Noir? If so, do you know if the bottles you buy are mostly from Northern California, France or elsewhere? There is no right or wrong answer here; the grape varieties and their origins only help the wine professionals determine your preference.
If someone tells Jones Jackson that he mostly drinks Moscato, for example, she might encourage him to consider more attractive varieties, such as dry whites like Gewürztraminer, Riesling or sometimes Viognier, because they are very floral, she says.
Try something you don’t know, and then you can make an informed decision to say: Oh, I don’t like it for XYZ reasons, vs I’m afraid to try it. Regina Jones Jackson, owner and senior wine consultant, Corks and Cuvee.
Sarah Goler, wine director at Tannat in New York, also believes it’s helpful to know what guests typically drink before suggesting something new.
If someone says: I love sauvignon blanc, I would recommend a wine with distinct herbal and citrus notes, like Hárslevelű from Hungary, says Goler. I choose about three wines in the price range to take away any financial pressure.
It is convenient and not at all tacky to share the amount you want to spend. There are great wines at $13 and $300, and they all have their time and place.
Sarah Goler, wine director, Tannat Market and Tavern / Courtesy of Tannat.
Your culinary preferences may also be an indication of the types of wine you like.
There are those who prefer sweets, and there are those who prefer a bag of chips with salt and vinegar for dessert, says Innocent. I like to divide it into these terms because it’s very accessible and you can say: Okay, I know I don’t really like sweets. I prefer something spicy.
From that, Innocent can tell whether you prefer a fruity red wine or a more tannic and spicy one, he says.
If you can give your sommelier or shopkeeper information to choose from, they are more likely to recommend a bottle you like. /Snapshot : The Hampton Social
If you rarely buy wine and have no idea what varieties you like, tell a wine expert when and where you want to drink the wine.
If you are in Florida and want to sit outside drinking wine in the middle of the day, I would think twice: Okay, let’s do this big, heavy Cabernet, Innocent said. Instead, he recommends a light, refreshing wine, in addition to everything else you consume during the day.
Or maybe you’re just looking for something to watch a movie in the evening, he says. In this case, I would definitely recommend something more complex, deeper and insightful while drinking it.
A willingness to experiment is essential.
Try something you don’t know, and then you can make an informed decision to say: Oh, I don’t like it for XYZ reasons, versus. I’m afraid to try it and I don’t know what I like, I’ve never eaten it, so I just say no because I’ve always said no, says Jones Jackson.
You can accomplish a lot by stepping out of your comfort zone.
I use myself as an example, says Jones Jackson. For years I would only drink a big buttery Chardonnay. It was my drink… I literally did not go out, so my knowledge of wine was very limited because I only knew one variety.
You don’t have to speak French or memorize names to find something new. To get the most out of your wine, simply ask and answer questions.
Wine varies so much, and there’s so much of it, says Jones Jackson. I just want people to be open to new things.
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