Montreal Gazette

Don't be reluctant to take advice from a sommelier

- BILL ZACHARKIW Food pairing idea: Aperitif, cold seafood salad.

My favourite part of working as a sommelier is talking to wine lovers. But I'm amazed how reluctant some people are to taking advice, or even opening up about what they don't know about wine. I feel underused. So whether you are at a restaurant or the SAQ looking for a wine, here are a few tips on how to be a better consumer.

Show, or tell us, what you like. I get it, many people have a hard time rememberin­g the name of a wine they really liked. I'm sorry, but “Château something” doesn't quite cut it. If that's you, then every time you drink a wine you love, take a picture of the label. Knowing what turns you on will help us find you something similar.

Let us know your adventure tolerance. I love exposing people to new styles, but some people are just not into that. They are either afraid to try something new or simply just love a particular style. That's a shame because there are so many amazing wines out there — let us know how open you are to new things.

Be clear about how much you want to pay. Nothing is more frustratin­g than not knowing how much the client wants to pay. Whether you give a price range or a maximum amount, our job is to give you the best wine for your tastes and your wallet.

Seafood and red wine are a bad mix. There's a school of thought that says “people should drink what they want.” Of course you can, but I never attended that school. If you are and anythingbu­t-white person, get over it. Red wine is simply too powerful for most seafood. White wine pairs best and I guarantee if you make that leap, you will taste your food like never before.

Ask your sommelier if they want a taste of your wine. I always tell clients this is the best “pourboire” they can give me. I don't always accept, but if it's a new vintage I haven't tasted or if I'm just thirsty, I'll gladly take an ounce or two. While it's a nice thing to do, this is especially important if you don't “get” the wine.

If you think something might be “off,” ask someone who knows better to taste it. On a number of occasions, I have found small faults that most people overlook.

Don't Vivino every wine on a list. Vivino is a very popular app. But few things rile me more than people showing me Vivino consumer ratings or the listed price of the bottle. The price is in American dollars — because of taxes and markup, it's expensive to drink wine in a Quebec restaurant. As a buyer, every wine I put on the list is worthy. What Bob in Georgia thinks doesn't matter to me.

In the spirit of the coming heat wave, here are three summery wines I hope you enjoy.

Utiel-requena 2021, Mariluna, Sierra Norte, Spain white, $14.40, SAQ #14234001. Organic.

Hard to go wrong with this, considerin­g the price. Lemon and peaches, fresh but not acidic, and a dry, lingering finish.

Grape varieties: verdejo, macabeo.

Residual sugar: 1.4 g/l.

Serve at 8-10C. Drink now.

Côtes du Marmandais 2021, Le Vin est une fête, Elian Da Ros, France red, $24.20, SAQ #11793211.

Vibrant fruit, easy tannins and tastes best on the cooler side. Bordeaux fans will love this as it shows a similar refinement. Cherry, red plum and just a touch of olive make for some decent complexity.

Grape varieties: merlot, cabernet franc, abouriou.

Residual sugar: 1.3 g/l.

Serve at 14-16C. Drink now-2023. Food pairing idea: Pork roast with chutney, ratatouill­e.

Chianti Classico 2020, Sangió, Monte Bernardi, Italy red, $32.25 (1L), SAQ #14990025. Natural wine.

Absolutely delicious and zero added sulphites. If you're looking for an easy drinking red that will pair with almost anything, including salmon, then this litre of joy is for you. Cherry fruit, refreshing acids and just enough tannin on the finish to make it meat-worthy. Serve slightly chilled.

Grape variety: sangiovese. Residual sugar 2.5 g/l. Serve at 16C. Drink now.

Food pairing idea: Veal with grilled mushrooms and roasted beets, grilled salmon.

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