How to Pretend You Know Wine on a Date
I’ll never forget the night when my friend was going on her first date with her current boyfriend. They were going to a wine bar, as many first daters in New York do.
Pretty soon, my friend was frantically texting me about wine and having me phonetically spell out how to say words like “pinot grigio” (pee-no-gree-jio) via text message. She was plenty cultured and had certainly drunk plenty of wine before. She just never took the time to learn the proper pronunciation.
The thing is, there are lots of different types of wines from lots of different countries with lots and lots of different pronunciation rules. It would be impossible to learn them all. So, what do you do when you end up on a date with someone who knows wine like the back of their hand?
You cheat. We talked to Alyssa Vitrano, founder of Grapefriend wine blog, about how to be wine savvy on a date without having to memorize all 12 oenological regions of France.
1. Stay Safe
Don’t try to order something random and hope for the best. If your date is super chivalrous, he’ll pick a bottle that you guys can split. If it’s a first date and you’re both playing it safe and ordering one drink at a time, you can still ask him for a suggestion. After all, most guys love taking charge and he’ll jump at the opportunity to show off his wine knowledge to you.
If you don’t want to give your date control over your drink order, Alyssa says that “the safest bets would be ones that are more middle-of-the-road — not too heavy, not too acidic, not too tannic. For reds, pinot noir is a great go-to.”
“Another affordable choice,” she said, “is a Cotes du Rhone — a nice balance of fruit and earthiness. For whites, pinot blanc is always refreshing and Sauvignon Blancs are often great with food.” If you’ve generally got a picky palette, go out with a girlfriend and try different wines until you can pick one as your “go-to” for every occasion.
2. Base Your Choice On Your Food
If you’re on a dinner date and still struggling on which wine to pair with your dinner, it’s much easier than you think.
“For the most part, food from a certain region goes really well with wines form the same region,” Alyssa says. “If you’re having pizza or pasta with a red sauce, try a Barbera d’Alba or Sangiovese form Italy. Seafood paella? Go for some Albariño.”
Alyssa also recommends trying to match the body of the food to the body of the wine. If you’re eating a heavy and hearty meal, you’ll also want a heavy, full-bodied wine — a.k.a. red. If you’re eating lighter, try a white.
If you’re not comfortable deciding which wine has the appropriate body for your meal, memorize Alyssa’s easy hacks: “Heavy meats are great for cabs and Rhone wines. Lighter stuff like veal and salmon are amazing with medium-bodied Pinot Noir. And white fish calls for a lighter white like Italian or Greek white wines. And with anything spicy, go for rosé!”
3. Don’t Try To Fake It Too Hard
If you don’t know shit about wine, you’re going to look like an idiot trying to pronounce “Sangiovese.”
Instead, use your cluelessness about wine to engage your date.
“The best way to learn is by drinking and asking questions, and any guy who’s really into wine should be happy to have someone to teach and maybe even show off their knowledge,” Alyssa says. We all know the majority of guys love feeling smart and having their egos stroked by a girl who can learn a thing or two from them, so feel free to play into this while gaining some wine smarts on the way.
And on one last point, Alyssa speaks some serious truth: “If he’s lame and judgmental about the fact that you don’t know about wine, then he’s probably just a lame and judgmental dude you likely won’t want to go out on that many more dates with anyway.”