A first date is stressful at the best of times, and if you’re confident enough to suggest a restaurant, you’ll probably be out to impress with all guns blazing.
But if you really want to go the extra mile, a well-matched bottle of wine is sure to win over anyone’s heart, and may explain why a study on 1,500 tipplers by Côtes du Rhône Wine discovered that over 50% of British men are concerned about their choice of wine complementing the food.
Adding the responsibility of an informed wine selection to the social awkwardness of a first date could become a cocktail that’s too strong to stomach. If, like me, you don’t know the first thing about fine wine outside of the movie ‘Sideways’, though, don’t fret – it’s surprisingly easy to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Companies that specialise in helping fine wine owners unlock the full value of their case have more than a few ways to determine what makes wine “fine” (ie: worth paying top dollar for), even before the cork has been pulled. But if you’re trying to look cultured and urbane on a first date, picking a decent bottle is pretty important, particularly if you’re not used to breaking the dreaded ten-pound barrier. Here are a few tips for ordering something impressive without the fear of going overboard.
Take the Meal into Consideration
Sure, there are vast libraries of books on pairing wine with food, but the basics should be enough to get you going. Long story short: the flavour intensity of the food needs a similar wine to complement it, and the spectrum is surprisingly easy to predict. There are plenty of online wine pairing guides to get you started, and you’d be surprised how little more information you’d need beyond those.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try
…but don’t go overboard. There’s a fine line between trying one bottle that isn’t quite right before settling for another, and looking like you’re just trying to get free samples. It may not be your area of expertise, but if you want to look like you know what you’re doing, spend time savouring the choice and the taste. Don’t forget you may wind up spitting the wine into a bucket – never a good look on a first date. If in doubt, just remember that the waiter is your friend.
Cheap and New Doesn’t Mean Poor Quality
Vintage wines will of course set you back a great deal more than newer ones, but if you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for, will you even notice a difference? Rest assured that the more affordable items on a wine list are designed to be drunk relatively soon – around two or three years – after bottling.
If in Doubt, Bring Your Own!
If all of this information is making you wonder WTF, just BYOB. While it’s not exactly a common practice, there are plenty of great restaurants that allow you to take your own tipple in with you. You can still impress with the knowledge you picked up from this article, browsing the finer bottles your local supermarket (or Oddbins, if you’re feeling particularly fancy) has to offer, just in case the restaurant’s cellar is “not quite up to scratch.”