How to Select a Wine When Dining Out

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When you order wine in a restaurant, you usually have few details about the wines listed on the menu. And if you’re new to the wine scene, you may have trouble remembering which wines go well with which foods. Don’t panic! You don’t have to give in to your uncertainty and skip ordering a glass of wine.

[Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Chloe Johns]
Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Chloe Johns

The following table lists some wines that are on most restaurant wine lists and are consistently reliable choices with the specified foods.

Reliable Wine Choices When Ordering in a Restaurant
When you want: Order:
A crisp, dry white wine that isn’t very flavorful, to accompany delicately-flavored fish or seafood Soave, Pinot Grigio, or Sancerre
A dry white wine with assertive flavor; perfect with mussels and other shellfish Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa or New Zealand
A medium-bodied, characterful, dry white wine, for simple poultry, risotto, and dishes that are medium in weight Mâcon-Villages, St.-Véran, or Pouilly-Fuissé
A full-bodied, rich white wine, for lobster or rich chicken entrées California or Australian Chardonnay
A full-bodied white wine with a honeyed, nutty character; works with meaty fish, veal, or pork entrées Meursault
A medium-dry white wine, for Asian-inspired dishes Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, or German Riesling
An easy-drinking, inexpensive red; perfect with roast chicken Beaujolais (especially from a reputable producer, like Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, or Georges Duboeuf)
A versatile, flavorful, relatively inexpensive red that can stand up to spicy food California red Zinfandel
A lighter red that’s delicious, young, and works with all sorts of light- and medium-intensity foods Oregon or California Pinot Noir
The basic French version of Pinot Noir; try it with simple cuts of steak Bourgogne Rouge
A dry, spicy, grapey, and relatively inexpensive red wine that’s perfect with pizza Barbera or Dolcetto
A very dry, medium-bodied red that’s great with lots of foods Chianti Classico

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