We've all been there: put on the spot to order a bottle of wine for a group while dining out. Though this can be a welcome position, it's important to consider not only the cost, but also how the wine will complement each dish. Ryan Biesen, sommelier at the Lincoln Center, gives his best advice on choosing a wine the table will relish at a price point that won't break the bank... unless you want it to.
Biesen recommends considering what everyone is ordering. Choose your bottle of wine based on the main courses, not the appetizers, and encourage input from the table.
"Knowing your company is important. Ask what's the last bottle of wine they bought for themselves," suggests Biesen.
But don't get hung up on preconceived notions. Ordering white wine with fish may be the norm, but it's not obligatory.
How much should you spend?
With a plethora of inexpensive wines available in the region, it can be difficult to justify spending more for wine when you dine out. But Biesen points out that you're also paying for the service and knowledge of your server or sommelier.
"The world of wine is so expansive at this point that you have a wine for every spectrum of a person's palate and budget," says Biesen. "There are inexpensive champagnes out there that are just as good as a Dom Pérignon. Rare wines demand a higher price."
Some wine lists are simplified to pair with all aspects of a menu. Other lists are curated to such an extent that they resemble a tome. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
"Stick to what you know. Trying something new at $100 a bottle may not be for everyone. Become familiar with wines before you go in," recommends Biesen. "If you're not familiar with a varietal or winery, take a trip to Walla Walla. Washington is the new Napa."♦