Wednesday, September 7, 2011


You don't have to be a wine expert to go to a high tech restaurant
An excellent-dining wine list will have lots of bottles to choose from. There will be champagnes, aperitifs (an alcoholic beverage drunk before a meal), white wines, red wines, dessert wines, and digestives. They will come from all the corners of the world and the prices will probably range from the good to ‘is this for real-expensive?’

It can all be a bit overwhelming, and I have often seen people go nervous when presented with a thick leather-bound book for fear that they will either bankrupt themselves or, even worse, look like a rube (naive or unsophisticated, especially somebody from a rural area who is not used to city ways) in front of their guests and the staff.

Get in the wine business
Research, research, research: do your research. Almost every restaurant has a website, and, while their menus may change daily, their wine list will not change as much. Given that you may well have made your reservation over a month in advance, you have plenty of opportunity to study the menu and decide on your wine budget for the evening.

Restaurants often include malicious mark ups on the wines they sell. Unless you are a pro (real collector), it is hard to know which wines are the worst offenders. A great app to help you is
Wine Search. Not only does it tell you the average retail price of the wine you would be considering but the mark up added by the restaurant. NB: the more expensive wines tend to be marked up less and, although they will cost more, you can find some relative bargains at the higher end of the list.
Don't let them intimidate you into spending
When in the restaurant, you will almost certainly be offered a glass of champagne/wine. It is all too easy to become carried away in the moment and agree, but bear in mind that this is a real up selling strategy on the restaurant’s part, and those simple glasses of champagne may well result in an added Ksh ++ to the final bill. It would be better to just ask for the wine list and make your own decision on your own time.

It is also true about the offer of wine pairings with your meal. Most places are offering them. I much prefer to search for one or two bottles of something that will suit the courses my table is about to try.

Depending on the restaurants cuisine, you may well find that their wine lists are also weighted towards the wines from the same region, for example France and Italy. That often means that there can be some bargains to be found when looking at wines from other regions of the world. I find that wine from Spain and Portugal have good prices.
The sommelier is your friend
Talking of the Sommelier (a wine steward in a restaurant, hotel, or other establishment, who supervises the ordering, storing, and serving of wine), it is good to take note that, that person with the bunch of grapes on their lapel has many years experience in the wine industry and is there to help you, not to make you look bad. It would be good to tell the sommelier your strict budget and ask them to find you something suitable. They are always keen to impress and often provide something remarkable. Don’t be intimidated; they want nothing more than to make you happy.

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