You’re trying to land the biggest contract in your company’s history, so you’ve taken your golden prospect out for a deal-breaking dinner. All goes well until the sommelier approaches and asks, “Would you care to select wine for the table?” Gulp.
Luckily, a few simple tips can get you through the evening. Michael Fagan, manager of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s Knowledge Resources Group, distills some wine wisdom.
There are no stupid questions. For starters, don’t be intimidated or afraid to ask questions. “There’s a lot of snobbery that’s associated with wine, but at the end of the day it’s fermented grape juice and what’s intimidating about that?” asks Fagan. Base your selection on what your guests are eating and whether they prefer red or white. And don’t be shy about asking the waiter for suggestions.
Rules are made to be broken. The old adage, ‘Red wine with red meat, white with fish and poultry,’ is intended as a guideline, not a rule. But you just want to make selections that complement your meal. Wines made from Pinot Noir or Gamay grapes are good selections for red meats but if you prefer white, opt for a full-bodied wine such as an oak-aged chardonnay.
Put a cork in it. After you’ve ordered, your work has only begun. The waiter will return and after uncorking will likely present you with the stopper. What do you do now? You can smell it but it will likely smell like cork. (A musty smell, however, is indicative of a problem.) The real cork test is to feel it. The cork should be moist, not brittle.
The nose knows. By now the waiter has poured a small amount of vino. Pick up the glass and take a look at it. Check for bits of floating (brittle) cork or other impurities. Then give it a sniff. “Your nose tells you most of what you’re going to taste,” says Fagan. “You want the aromas to be fresh, not mousy or musty.” If it’s up to sniff, it’s time for the taste-test. Take a sip and swish it around your mouth. This is the only way to detect all the sweet, sour, salty and bitter subtleties. If it passes muster, ask the waiter to serve your guests. You, as host, should be served last.
Price chopper. One last bit of advice from Fagan: “Don’t always order the most expensive wine. Price is not always the best indicator of value.”
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© 2003 Allan Britnell