How to Look Wine Savvy on a Date?
A Wine Beginner's Guide


A survey co-sponsored by the Australian Wine Council and investigated the attitudes of singles towards wine.  It concluded that 7 in 10 survey respondents agreed that knowledge about wine makes a member of the opposite sex more attractive.

Beer may be your favourite beverage, but your date drinks wine try to switch over and to impress her or him with your wine skills. Knowing a bit about wine is often a sign of good upbringing and even status. Wine-drinkers are perceived as interesting companions, adventurous and fun. And rightfully so. The wine world is immensely diverse. Wine lovers are usually curios crowd, they love trying new wines, learning facts about wine and wine travel.  

However, the topic of wine is quite complicated especially if we are talking about the old-world wines with numerous grape varieties, wine regions and vintages. 

For example, in France, when talking about wine, we use a lot of hard-to-pronounce toponyms and unique terms such as “terroir” and “chateaux”. In Italy, the vino talk is completely different, with so it is quite easy to get lost. However, with these few simple tricks, you can carry a wine-related conversation in confidence. 

Start with bubbles

If your date orders a glass of wine, make sure to follow with the same or better yet with a type of wine you feel confident talking about.

If she isn’t sure of what to order, offer her a glass of Champagne or another sparkling wine (Cava, Cremant, or Prosecco). Bubbles are always an excellent start for any memorable event and knowing sparkling wines shows class. Remember that only the French sparkling wine from the Champagne region can be called this name. Never refer to Prosecco or any other bubbles as Champagne. This would definitely be a “faux pas“.  Be sure to learn how elegantly open a bottle of Champagne or another sparkling wine.  

An alternative to bubbles, will be an easy wine that goes well without food or with small light starters.

I would suggest to go with light, fruity, and crispy Sauvingnon Blanc, light Italian wines like Vermentino or Pinot Grigio, French whites: Chablis, Sancerre, or Pouilly Fumé.  A glass of rose wine will do well.  

If you prefer reds for your aperitif wine, stay with light, fruity young wines. Sangiovese, young Merlots, Bardolino.  Avoid bold heavy reds and oaky whites, which require heavier food to go with. 

Go “low-risk”

Wine pairing with food is an immensely vast topic.  Let’s cover the basics and talk about some easy to follow rules.

Red wine with red meat and white wine with fish

When ready to order wine to accompany your meal, use the mega simple rule of thumb – “red wine with red meat and white wine with fish”. Yes, this is a simplification, but it is easy to use if you are just starting out with understanding wine. 

The idea that red meat should only be paired with red wines is based on the observation that tannins found in red wine bind to meat proteins, thus softening the impact of the wine. Salt is also a factor in a successful pairing. The salt content of the meat dishes softens wine tannins, making red wine more enjoyable.

Big and fatty meals like steak will be complemented by intense and structured wines like red Left Bank Bordeaux blends, California Cabs or Syrah. Lighter meals such as chicken or fish may also go well with elegant reds like Pinot Noir or wines from Chianti

Fish dishes, especially oily ones, are high in “umami”, a savoury taste, that can make red wines to appear more bitter and astringent.  It is safer to stick to the rule and pair these fish dishes with white wine.  It is safe to pair fish simple fruity whites such as unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio from Veneto region, Italy.

These simple whites also go well with spicy Asian foods and so do rose wines.  The wines you choose for spicy dishes should not be high in alcohol.  They can be fruity and slightly sweet to offset the heat of spices.  

Go local

You can always follow the rule of pairing dishes of the regions or countries to the wine of the same origin. These combinations evolved over the centuries and proved to be excellent. For example French oysters with white Bordeaux, Muscadet and Champagne. 

Italian pasta is going very well with Italian wines.  It is generally advised to pair tomato-sauce-based pasta with reds like Pinot Noir and Merlot with higher acidity. Cream-based sauces will go well with oaky white wines such as California Chardonnays.

“Low-risk” wines

Sommeliers around the world operate a concept of “low-risk” wines when pairing wine with food.  These are the wines unlikely to be made unpleasant by any dish. Most of us don’t want wines to feel bland, astringent or bitter.  Simple, unoaked, and dry would be a formula. Sauvingnon Blanc is done in mostly unoaked style, Albarino from Portugal, Semillion from Hunter Valley, Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France, would be the examples.

When in doubt, or if ordering any “high-risk” foods, such as spicy or bitter dishes, select white wines and low-tannin reds – Pinot Noir, Gamay from Beaujolais, Dolcetto, or Barbera.

These bottles below are some of the example of easy to drink “low-risk” wines.

Be prepared for a small wine talk

Asking about someone’s favourite wine can be a great conversation starter. This might tell you more about her taste and wine knowledge as well as give you a potential gift idea for the subsequent date.  

Be prepared to answer this question yourself. You might choose to say that you like bold California Cabs, or similar style red Bordeaux wines from the Left Bank. These are considered to be masculine wines. 

If you want to look like a more sophisticated wine lover, you might say you love Pinot Noir from California or Burgundy. Being a Pinot Noir fan is considered to be the top level of wine understanding. It is usually quite expensive as well. If you want to look adventurous, mention wines from less popular wine regions, perhaps Gewurtztraminer from Germany or Furmint from Hungary.

Rose is considered to be a simple wine, and not what men would generally prefer. Ladies love rose though. It is elegant and fruity, excellent for an aperitif on a hot summer day. If your conversation goes there, mention that the best rose wines in the world come from the Provence region in the south of France and “by the way, Brangelina have invested into a wine brand Miraval, one of the most expensive rose wines in the world”.  If you are interested in more interesting rose wine facts, read my article on How to Choose a Perfect Bottle of Rose.

Master your wine manners

When ordering a bottle, you may sniff on a cork. If a cork smells like wet dog or damp carton box, the wine may be corked, which is a typical wine fault.  Obviously, plastic corks and aluminium screw caps would likely not be affected by cork taint, as it is almost strictly a problem with natural cork caused by trichloroanisole, a specific bacteria that contaminates cork or wine-making equipment. Read my article about other wine defects.

Hold  your wine glass by its stem. This way, you will not warm the wine nor leave fingerprints on the glass.

Once the wine is poured, sniff it, then carefully swirl the wine to release the aromas into the glass.  Place your nose near the rim of the glass and take another short sniff. Repeat a couple of times. You can comment on the condition of the wine (corked, faulty), aromas you find, their intensity and the stage of wine development (youthful or well-developed and aged).

After sipping a bit of wine, you can comment on the palate of the wine. The characteristics to touch on may include the wine’s sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol levels, body and finish.  

When topping up glasses, serve your date first and only fill up a glass to about one-third.

Have port wine, sweet wine or a glass of dry wine with a dessert.

Good luck!

Perhaps, this article made you a bit more interested in the topic of wines. To learn more, read one of these great wine booksI started my journey in wine from Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World and here I am tasting wines in Bordeaux, France, with an MBA in Wine Management. 

There are a number of online courses in wine, wine tastings at local bars and professional wine designations, some of which you can obtain online.

The most fun and the easiest way to learn about wines is to hop on a wine tour next time you travel and to see winemaking in action. 

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