A restaurant’s wine list can be incredibly daunting. Long menus are filled with producers we’ve never heard of and grape varietals we can’t pronounce, plus all that extra information about cuvée and vintage that’s meant to demystify a wine and only makes it more obscure. Because wine lists can be so intimidating, most of us tend to gravitate toward wines we’ve already had or options that seem familiar to us.
However understandable this approach is, you might be selling yourself short. Your sommelier is there to help you discover new wines, wines you might come to love as much as your current go- tos. We asked nine sommeliers which wine they wished people ordered more of. Here are their answers.
“I’d say generally I wish people ordered wines with age a little more frequently. I think it’s essential for people to once in a while venture into the higher price points to get a sense of the development that certain varietals undertake. Well-made, aged Cru Beaujolais and Loire Valley Cab Franc can be totally eye-opening and inspiring.” – Nathan Lithgow, Sommelier, Sauvage
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“Obscure Piemontese grapes like Erbaluce, Grignolino, and Freisa” – Steven Grubbs, Wine Director, Five & Ten and Empire State South
“I wish people would order the cooler, more interesting glass pours that we have at Spiaggia. We showcase a ton of up-and-coming regions — for example a Rossese by the glass, a weird local varietal from Liguria — but people don’t recognize it so they overlook it.” – Rachael Lowe, Beverage Director, Spiaggia
“Chablis, or just wines of elegance and balance that work well with the food being enjoyed.” – Eric Railsback, Wine Director, Mason Pacific
“Loire Chenin Blanc” – Joshua Thomas, Wine Director, Octavia and Frances
“Wines that they cannot pronounce. If the language barrier creates a hurdle, the wine drinking populous stops and looks and doesn’t proceed. This is where the job of the sommelier is even more important! This is why we have to speak like 10 languages poorly to be able to pronounce all of the wine and grape names from around the world and always have our decoder ring on! Just because you cannot pronounce Romorantin, doesn’t mean you won’t love it!!!!!!” – Matthew Kaner, Wine Director and Owner of Bar Covell, Augustine Wine Bar, Dead or Alive Wine Bar, AM/FM Wines
“Order more sparkling wine! With the boom of pet-nat, grower Champagne, and stellar Crémants, there is such a spectrum of sparkling wines that can be drunk at any point of the day/meal for any price point. Also, American wines! So many great producers from all around the country that make beautiful wines.” – Kimberly Prokoshyn, Head Sommelier, Rebelle
“Sparkling! Especially Champagne! Many people still feel that Champagne is only for toasting, or that it is too expensive — not the case. There are many different styles, different regions, and unique producers that are worthy of exploring.” – Ellie Bufkin, Assistant Wine Director, Maialino
“I wish people ordered more magnums! Sure, magnums (1.5L bottles) are inherently impressive, but they also keep wine younger and fresher. Magnums of wine age better and slower, tasting consistently better than when matured in the standard 750ml bottle. I often find guests unsure of their ability to polish off an entire magnum and then end up ordering 2-3 750ml bottles!” – Victoria James, Beverage Director, Piora & Cote restaurants, author of DRINK PINK, A Celebration of Rosé