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Chic Living: How to Order from a Wine List Like a Pro

Nothing complements dinner with the girls like a bottle of bold red wine, but the thought of choosing one from a book full of them often seems as complicated as picking our time, date and location! The average restaurant may boost hundreds–if not thousands–of labels on its wine list. Wherever you go tonight for dinner and drinks, take this list of tips with you to make the wine-choosing process feel as comfortable as your favorite pair of pumps.

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1. Start with a type of wine you know you like, then branch out accordingly. If you know you love Cabernet Sauvignon, start in that section of the wine list. If you prefer to be adventurous, enlist the help of the restaurant’s sommelier. Be direct: Do you want a deep, velvety red? Or something lighter and fruity?

2. Wines by the glass are marked up more than bottles, so if you and your dinner mates plan on drinking at least 3 glasses, consider splitting a bottle to save money.

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3. Choose your meal first, then defer to the wine list. No oenophile worth her salt would recommend Merlot with her fish entree, but a less complex Syrah or Pinot Noir will beautifully complement salmon and swordfish. Let the tastes of your entree guide those of your accompanying glass.

4. Many restaurants now organize their wine lists by region. A few examples include “Old World”–France, Germany and Italy–and New World–Australia, California and Chile, to name a few. If you once fell in love with a Shiraz from South Africa, try another! If the Burgundy grape never agreed with your palette, steer clear of it. But if you’d rather experiment…

5. …then ask for a flight. Many restaurants offer flights, i.e., small pours of 3 to 5 complementary wines. This is a fantastic way to discover your own palette and learn how different varietals taste in relation to one another. After the flight, order a glass of the wine you like best!

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Special thanks to Herbie’s Vintage 72 in Saint Louis, Missouri, for the wine, wisdom and location!

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