We all know that when it comes to the sales and service industries, you’re being sized up. Whether you’ve walked into Hermès or Eleven Madison Park, the sales associate or waiter is looking you up and down and making a call. And we all want the same thing: to be seen as a person who’s in the know. Remember that guy who figured out how to get a Birkin bag? He figured out that he had to buy 10 Hermès scarves before they’d sell him a Birkin. Well, there’s a wine version of 10 Hermès scarfs that will get the sommelier at a fancy restaurant to take you seriously, and we’re going to tell you what it is.
Getting treated like you’re someone who’s in the know does not mean you need to walk in with a holier-than-thou attitude or a Certified Somm pin affixed to your lapel. All you need to do is order wines from regions and grapes that those in the know tend to flock to, instead of simply going for the regions most would consider safe, like Napa and Bordeaux. Be adventurous and you’ll be rewarded. And you don’t have to sacrifice the kinds of wine you like simply by ordering a wine that’s a bit more esoteric. Here are a few ideas:
If You Like Pinot Noir:
Sure, you could go for a bottle from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or blow a wad of cash on a pricey bottle from Burgundy. But if you’re a fan of Pinot and want some instant cred, scan the list and see if they have a bottle for the Jura instead. This tiny French wine region has been an obsession of somms and wine geeks for a few years now, but it still isn’t mainstream, so ordering a Pinot from here shows you’re in the know.
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The same goes for a bottle of Nero d’Avola or Frappato from Mt. Etna in Sicily. This region is all the rage right now, thanks to its rich volcanic soils that make its wines absolutely stellar. Similar to Burgundy, it’s a wine that will please everyone at the table.
If You Like Chardonnay:
Opting for a white Burgundy or Napa Chard might show you’re willing to open up your wallet, but there’s a better option lurking on the list: Chenin Blanc. Chenin, as many in the trade affectionately call it, has a similar weight and texture to Chardonnay, along with apple and pear aromas that many would equate with a Chard.
If You Like Riesling:
Order Riesling, but make it one from Austria. Riesling is still the white wine of choice for many in the wine biz, but it’s yet to really become mainstream with American drinkers. Part of the problem is that many assume all Rieslings are sweet, when in fact, when it comes to Austria, the opposite is true: Most are bone dry. These are approachable bottles of white that the table is sure to enjoy.
If You’re a Fan of Cabernet Sauvignon
Go for a Ribera del Duero. Made from Tempranillo, the same grape used to make Rioja, wines from the Ribera region tend to have more power and are richer and fuller-bodied than Riojas, making them a nice stand-in for someone who’s seeking out a great steak wine.
Another alternative is Cabernet Franc — the parent of famed Cabernet — that is all the rage with wine geeks.