As confusing as wine can be in an off-license or supermarket, this bafflement is worsened a hundred times when out in a bar or restaurant. You’re being rushed, it’s busy and quite frankly the only wine on the list you actually recognise is the cheap Pinot Grigio so quite understandably you go for the safe option. Firstly, let me tell you, this wine is probably the dullest on the list and secondly it probably has the highest mark up (it’s scary how much the actual wine in the bottle costs, I won’t tell you for fear of ruining the illusion..or wine industry).
When in a bar, there are the usual suspects that dominate the white wine menus, all rounder Sauvignon Blanc, fair-weather Pinot Grigio and a suspicious looking Chardonnay. By way of research I’ve had to (sigh) study (and drink, double sigh) many London wine lists from cheery pubs to nouveau chic bars and restaurants and trust me when I say there are plenty others with far more interest. I’ve mentioned Viognier before and I’ve seen it cropping up everywhere, a softer peachy wine that can be drunk all too easily. Italians whites such as Gavi, Vermentino and Verdiccio are favourites of mine, more interesting than PG and much more memorable (I can’t promise anything after the third bottle..) Another little known white wine that is seen out and about is Muscadet, a lovely little French wine that is rather delightful. Plus I recently tried one from Tesco in their ‘Simply‘ range, not bad at all. If you’re eating fish or poultry look out for a Marsanne or white Rioja, these are fuller bodied styles that will stand up to the food, plus make you look pretty knowledgeable in front of the hot waiter(ess).
Red can be a stumbling block in pubs and restaurants; my tip? Go Italian (you’d think I was working for them at this rate) and you should be ok, most mid-table Italian reds will be versatile if you’re having different main courses. I’ve only ever had two (of plenty, trust me) not so great bottles. If you’re just drinking in a bar look for a Pinot Noir, not only is it my namesake wine but it’s full of fresh strawberries and cherries (to name a few) and is light enough for slurping without food. Now that it’s turned a little colder, I’m back into my massive reds, namely Shiraz. It’s an obvious choice (sorry) but the rich fruit and spice can be so comforting and delicious. Plus it’s easy to spot on a wine list. If you can get anything other than the Merlot I will be happy..
Every single wine list in every bar, restaurant, pub wherever will be different so unfortunately I don’t have the complete guide. I hope this helps a bit..
Let’s embrace the cold with yummy red wine..Enjoy!