How To Order Wine When You Know Nothing, From An Expert


Despite the hoards of articles online touting “Fun Date Ideas That Have Nothing To Do With Drinking,” let's be realistic… most dates you go on in your 20s will involve alcohol.

Actually, based on my mathematically-sound What's Appropriate Scale, most activities in your 20s have to do with alcohol: any holiday, any somewhat special occasion, anytime you eat… really just any time.

It seems, though, drinking in your later 20s should be tinged with a bit more enlightenment than it was in your college years, especially when it comes to dating.

No one wants to feel lost or frazzled on a date, and it's silly to spend our hard-earned money on something we know little about.

I think it's safe to say most of us wish we knew a little more about wine -- if only it required less effort and memorization, and if only you didn't have to pretend your palate was sophisticated enough to catch the alleged hints of lemon thistle masked by coffee overtones due to the oak-barrel aging process. (This makes no sense. Do not repeat this verbatim in any social setting.)

Good news! It turns out you don't have to be obnoxious when you talk about wine, you just have to know how to describe what you like and don't like (being able to pronounce everything wouldn't hurt).

I spoke to Jim Nejaime, a top wine merchant in the Berkshires, MA, whose store, Spirited, carries over 1,000 varieties of wine in addition to spirits and beer to help me break down the vast and enigmatic World of Wine.

Even if you know absolutely nothing about wine, now you can impress your date with an informed, quality decision.

Below are some quick and easy tips for effectively navigating a wine list and successfully ordering.

What do you do if you don't recognize a thing on the wine list?

Nikki Pagliaro

We've all been here. Jim says,

What do you do if you're interested in what's trendy?

Nikki Pagliaro

There's nothing wrong with enjoying the classics, but being experimental and knowing what's newly popular can make choosing wine more exciting. Jim says,

What do you do if you want the biggest bang for your buck?

Nikki Pagliaro

I asked Jim about the validity of the theory you shouldn't order the second cheapest bottle of wine because that's what the restaurant expects you to do and, therefore, makes it the worst deal. He says,

What do you do if you've already had cocktails?

Nikki Pagliaro

You went out for a drink, it went well and now you're at dinner. Jim says,

What do you do if you're worried about staining your teeth purple?

Nikki Pagliaro

There's nothing quite like flashing those pearly purples while you flirt. Jim says,

What do you do if you're trying to get a stronger buzz? What do you do if you want to stay more sober?

Nikki Pagliaro

Depending on who you're on a date with and how it's going, you may want to lean in one direction when it comes to alcohol content. Jim says,