5 Insider Tips to Make Selecting Wine Easier

Cape May Vineyards, Cape May, NJ

Cape May Vineyards, Cape May, NJ

Whether it's the wine list at a restaurant or the aisles upon aisles of bottles at your local store, choosing wine can be a daunting task. Let's make it more simple!

I've been interested in wine since college, and it all started when I tried to impress a date by taking her to fancy French restaurant. I scoped out the wine list in advance and even asked how to pronounce the wine I planned to order (again to try and impress). I remember the wine to this day, Chateau Larose-Trintaudon. A Bordeaux blend of merlot and Cabernet Franc. I had never had it, nor a French wine before in my life, but it was the beginning of my food and wine life.

Fast-forward to 2018 and I have recently completed an in-depth wine course, the WSET Level 2. It's nowhere near the complexity of a Sommelier course, but really helped me with understanding wine flavors, geography and what works well with certain foods. So, the next time you hire Zest for an intimate in-home dinner, consider adding my wine pairing expertise to complete your culinary experience.

Here are my 5 Insider Tips for enjoyment of wine:

1. White with Fish and Red with Meat IS NOT always the best rule. I find that the earthiness and smoke found in some Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with salmon. Also, find a real dry Riesling (NO they're not all sweet!) the next time you have a steak, especially with béarnaise sauce, and you'll thank me later.

2. Champagne taste on a beer budget? I love champagne, the real stuff-from the Champagne region of France. However, I'm not always willing to drop the $$$ necessary. Look for Cremant, basically it's champagne from France made outside of Champagne. Wonderful stuff and usually about $20/bottle. Other good options are Cava from Spain.  Australia & New Zealand are making some wonderful sparkling options too.

3. Wine with Dessert. The basic rule is a simple one, you want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert, or the dessert will taste flat. Look for the words 'Late Harvest' on small 375ml bottles, this means just what it says, the grapes were harvested as late as possible, thus allowing the maximum amount of sugar to develop inside the grape.

4. Get out of your wine rut. We are all creatures of habit, but there is a huge world of grapes out there waiting to be explored. Like Chardonnay from California? Try Chablis from France, its Chardonnay without all the oak and butter. Hooked on Merlot? Try a Bordeaux from the Right Bank, a merlot-dominant blend and usually not too expensive.

5. Technology is at your fingertips, use it!.  It's as simple as snapping a photo of a wine label. Other options I like are Apps called Vivino and Cellar Tracker, both have free versions that are quite substantial with a great database.

Chef Theo