Last night I met up with a friend at one of my favorite wine bars on the Upper West Side, Barcibo . We got to talking about wine, namely how intimidating lists can be, especially for those with no formal training.
It's true that wine lists, especially wonderfully eclectic ones like Barcibo's, are minefields for those with neither the language skills (Erbaluce? Aglianico? Tocai Friulano?), nor the training to decipher them. But I have to make a confession. While I've been through two intensive wine seminars- both of which helped me nail the basics- most of my 'education' has come from perching myself at the bar and asking questions.
I credit the knowledgeable staff at the Batali/Bastianich enoteca Otto with having given me my favorite and most effective Italian wine classes (and I didn't have to spit!). Look- these guys are trained by the best sommeliers in the world. If you choose a good establishment (personally, I'm partial to the Batali places, but you can be certain that the helpful bar and waitstaff at restaurants like Telepan, 'Cesca, Country, Cookshop and so many others, will happily guide your wine ordering decisions). I suggest asking as many questions as possible (particularly if it isn't prime dinner hour and your server isn't harried). Before ordering a bottle, ask for the sommelier and let him make recommendations. He's there to help and, will be thrilled to rattle off the winning attributes of his favorite wines on the list.
It's a win-win for all. You get the wine and the education and the sommelier gets to share his passion and expertise with you. In my opinion- a rather entertaining way to do your homework on a formidable subject. Salut!
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