Choose a new fizz
It’s a fair assumption that when going for a fizz most will either reach for the prosecco or – if purse strings allow – the champagne. However, there are plenty of lesser known sparkling options that can rival even the most well know champagne houses at a fraction of the price – after all, sometimes you are indeed paying for the name and well-earned status that the king of sparkling wines affords. If you’re sticking with France, cremánt is a fantastic choice – produced in the same method as champagne but from various other regions across the country. Elsewhere, Spanish cava, franciacorta from northern Italy, and in particular, English sparkling wines, are again all made in the same way and are producing some wonderful wines.
Go for countries you never knew made wine
On many a wine list you’ll see pages of wines from the usual suspects – France, Italy, Argentina… the list goes on. As and when you see a rogue choice from an emerging wine making country it’ll generally be the gem that’s truly earned its place on the list – and again, will give you a much higher quality at perhaps half the price of a French counterpart. In recent years countries such as Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary and Greece have massively upped their game and are turning out some real top notch varieties – try something off piste and you may find a winner.
Learn a handful of reliable wines
When faced with a wall of wine in the supermarket or a menu that takes longer than dinner to read it can be a very daunting prospect to even know where to begin. Get familiar with a small number of easy drinking go-to wines that you know you like and as well as feeling confident when selecting them, you’ll also find this a good place to start experimenting with similar varietals and moving outside of your comfort zone.
Find out what’s on trend
As with anything, wines see trends, and there is more often than not a couple of grapes or regions that are en vogue. Whether its riesling, rosé, or the comeback of sherry – if you keep abreast of what’s having a moment, not only will you impress your mates, you’ll often find really great options around as merchants and sommeliers cater for the demand with wider selections and more interesting choices.
Ask your sommelier
As much as may want to bluff your way into the heart of your dinner date with your spectacular knowledge of wine, you are invariably no match for the sommelier… they are the very best, they have the joyous task of tasting all of these wines and generally will know the list by heart and what wine pairs best with every dish on the menu. Take advantage of this, if you don’t know what to pick – ask them. It’s always better to put yourself in the safe hands of an expert than waste your hard earned cash on the wrong bottle.