The world of wine can be a bit intimidating. There are so many types! How's a girl to choose? I recently had an opportunity to pick the brain of sommolier (and fellow booze blogger), Sara Lehman
of Somm in the City
about some of the basics.
SNB: We're often judged by the content of our cup. With this in mind, what are a couple of varietals to generally avoid when someone’s aiming to impress (especially at a restaurant or bar)?
SITC: Avoid the typical choices like Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir. Of course some spots have excellent wines by the glass with these grapes, but there are usually more fun and interesting grapes on the list.
SNB: What should she opt for instead?
SITC: Well, depending on the restaurant and their wine selection, its always fun to choose something unique but approachable. If you enjoy crisp whites with some yellow fruit and roundness, go for an Albarino from Spain or White Burgundy from France, which will be a Chardonnay grape varietal. Also if they have a Gavi or a Gruner Veltliner, these are fun grapes with striking acidity if she is a total pinot grigio fan. For an approachable red a Garnacha, Malbec, or Chianti are always good choices. These wines tend to be great on their own, and if you decided to order a light bite or two, are very food friendly!
SNB: Some varietals are great alone. Some are better with food. What's one of the most versatile?
SITC: It really depends what you like to drink and what you are eating at the time. Many whites such as a buttery California Chardonnay can go great with lighter meat dishes
SNB: So... boxed wine. Is there such a thing as a good wine in a box? And do you ever sneak a sip in private?
SITC: Boxed wine tends to have a bad rap, because when its not used for sangria or “slapping the bag” games, its just less expensive wine that can hang outside the fridge for longer than the bottle usually does. Good boxed wine does exist, and a few brands are Public House, Shania, and Beso del Sol or Don Simon Sangria.
I wouldn’t say leave these wines in your room or cellar to age, but they are very drinkable now. They're also good for when you need to make batched cocktails or when having a party where lots of wine is needed.
SNB: If you're just getting into wine, but your drink of choice until now has been cosmos or apple martinis, what's a good place to start?
SITC: Because of the acidity and alcohol in those cocktails, certainly start with a Sauvignon Blanc from California or New Zealand. The Apple Martini has some herbaceous and grassy notes like the SB from NZ would have, and the fruity California SB will be light and fruity like a cosmopolitan. Approach a wine with striking acidity first to see what you like and can handle, and then if you choose to move to a red, go for an Oregon Pinot Noir, a Washington State Cabernet, or a California Cab or Merlot.
SNB: Bonus- which pair of shoes remind you of your favorite wine?
SITC: I certainly get a lot of my shoes from Aldo and am very into Mary Jane-like shoes. They are stylish and classic, and can be worn with almost every outfit day or night. This shoe style reminds me of Champagne, which also is stylish and classic, and can be enjoyed anytime of day!
doesn't have any mary janes at the moment. However, this Galelawen ankle strap pump
seems to have the qualities Sarah described. They're on sale at the moment, too.