We could’ve just as easily called this cheat sheet “How To Sound Smart About Wine.” Kerry Woolard, the General Manager of Trump Winery, is not only incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, but she’s also heard all of the mistakes in the book. What to order with swordfish? She knows. The proper way to use the word “dry”? She knows that, too. Whether you're brushing up for dinner with your boss or preparing to impress a wine-lover on your first date, this is excellent information to have on-hand.
The basic pairings
Order a heavy red like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend.
These are actually really tough to pair, but I’d go with an acidic red to complement the tomatoes in the sauce. Try a Chianti.
It depends on the type. With a fatty fish or any fish you’d refer to as a “steak” (tuna and swordfish, for example), choose a light red or a heavy white. With flaky, white fish, go with a Sauvignon Blanc or Rosé.
What you order with chicken will depend on the sauce. With a light piccata or similar sauce, try a white, and with a heavier sauce, like marsala, go with a red.
If you really want to sound like you know a lot about wine, order a Sauternes. It’s excellent with cheese plates and fruity or creamy desserts.
Still not sure? Don't be afraid to ask—it's the sommelier's job! You don't have to know everything. You can ask for a sample of anything, and, at the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with just ordering a wine you like regardless of the pairing.
This is the most commonly misused term I’ve heard at tastings. “Dry” actually describes a wine that has no detectable sugar, and, aside from some semi-sweet and dessert wines, most wines are dry. People use it to describe heavy wines, but the word they’re looking for is “tannic.”
It’s an American blend using Bordeaux grapes, but people always say it with a French accent. In reality, it’s a completely made-up wine-industry word that rhymes with “heritage.” Say it correctly, and whoever you’re with will be impressed.
Novices tend to think, when they see “strawberry” or “cherry” in a description of a wine, that there are actual strawberries or cherries in the wine. That flavor actually just comes from the grapes.
Knowing whether or not you like oaky wines will help you order wine more confidently. If a wine is listed as “oaky,” it means the wine was aged in an oak barrel.
If all else fails
Order rosé. It’s a safe pick, because it’s fantastic with food, plus even the best bottles are inexpensive. If I leave you with one thing, it’s this: don’t be embarrassed to order rosé.