How to Order Wine When You Know Nothing About Wine

Despite What You've Been Told, "Dry" Is Not Helpful

Comments

1
But what am I supposed to do when they pour a taste & hand it to me,? Especially when I order it without any advice. Is there some dude walking around that will really be like "no, I don't like that, let me pick something else"? And does that dude still have to pay for the bottle he found inadequate?
2
The waiter or sommelier letting you have a taste of the wine first has nothing to do with preference. It's to check if the wine is spoiled or "corked." If you don't know what spoiled wine tastes like, don't worry about it. It'll still get you drunk.
3
So the headline is "How to Order Wine" and the gist of the article is, go ask somebody to show you. Thanks, helpful.
4
@3 is all sour grapes.
5
@1 the first taste is to see if the wine has faults, like being corked. If you don't like the flavor of the wine, that's not an excuse to send it back once the bottle has been opened. The sommelier who explained this to me said even when a wine expert is certain that the bottle is corked, for instance, it can be hard to send a bottle back-especially given the rare occurrence of bad bottles.
6
Apparently I am blind or my phone didn't show @2. Probably the former
7
But what if you actually like dry wine? That sensation of drying your tongue that some cabs have?
8
@7 If you want a dry sauvignon blanc, then order a sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux. In part it's the variety of grape, but it's also where it's grown and how the local climate affects ripening. That same grape turns out sweet Sauternes when grown in warm valleys.

I will say one thing... If like me you're sensitive to added sulfites in food or beverages, stick to French wine. Pretty much all wine has some sulfites occurring naturally, but French winemakers don't get to add any. (French wine purity laws are pretty strict on producers. They go to jail for putting in artificial preservatives or other rubbish.) American winemakers faced with sulfite labeling requirements lobbied to set the threshold so low, below naturally-occurring levels, that all wine has to carry the warning and no one could distinguish their adulterated crap from the pure stuff, at least not by the label. I'm not aware that anyone else is as strict as the French, so if more than a few milligrams of sulfite preservatives will make you start turning blue and gasping for air, don't fuck around with wines from anywhere else unless you trust the vintner personally.

And, I've found French wine surprisingly cost-effective for the quality. A low-end $7 or $8 red Bordeaux from my local discount/warehouse wine store can often be better than a fancy-pants $25 Northern California or Long Island wine. And I've never had an American wine good enough to compete with a middling $20 Medoc. It's admirable that we're developing some serious winemaking ability, but it's still a niche market, and overpriced compared to much higher quality imports.
9
@7 - the sensation you are referring to comes from tannins. Dry only refers to the presence or absence of sugar. The vast majority of red wines are completely dry unless it's a port or other dessert wine, or a really shitty California wine that has added sugar to cover up winemaking flaws.

Sometimes a red wine can taste a little sweet because it's really fruity, but you aren't actually tasting sugar - just a young, ripe wine. If a wine drys your mouth out it is high in tannins. If it makes your mouth water - like a good Riesling or Sauvignon blanc, it's high in acid.

If you like high tannin cabs I would suggest describing it as bold or structured, but not too rich or fruity. Say you like wines with some tannin in them - nothing wrong with that! In terms of fruit - for red wine it is helpful to think in terms of red fruit (cherries in particular - this would more likely be a Pinot or Cab Franc) or black fruit (especially if you liked that cooked prune flavor in really big, ripe wines - some Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or a lot of Italian varieties like Nebbiolo).
10
@8: You're fooling yourself. There are plenty of French wine producers who sulfur the fuck out of their wine.
11
#9: horse shit! All wine contains sugar because sugars come in many forms and yeast are not able to digest all of them. This is why when you boil wine you get syrup instead of nothing. Unsurprisingly the amount of sugar in wines varies.

I do not get why wine stewards will bring wines that have an obvious sweetness and then do handstands to come up with fake vocab for "sweet" ("fruity" or "contains unprocessed sugars", yeah no shit it does) to make it sound high falutin.

Why can't we be adults and admit wines fill a spectrum from dry to sweet and different people like different points on that spectrum? Why are we disallowing the single most variable axis about wine from consideration in favor of completely subjective shit like "pear"?

Many wines are sweet. Many are dry. Almost none taste like a fucking pear.
12
#11 - true, to a point. Although, you are unlikely to change an entire established wine vocabulary with your complaint. The point I was trying to make is many people say "dry" when describing wines high in tannin (which "dry" out your mouth) and not wines with low perceptible sugar levels - which are most of them, especially in red wines.
This article does a good job explaining the types of sugar in wine and how some wine might have a "sweetness" despite having very low levels of residual sugar. Glucose and fructose are the most prevalent sugars in grapes, and those are converted to alcohol through fermentation. But, to your point, there is a small amount of sugar and other sweet-tasting compounds that aren't fermentable and may contribute to "sweeter" tasting wines that are nonetheless "technically" dry. http://winemakermag.com/501-measuring-re…