10/07/2013 12:23 pm ET

GQ's Alan Richman Tells Us How To Beat An Overpriced Wine List


We've all been there before: You're at a restaurant, staring down the wine list. Which bottles are worth the price tag? GQ's resident wine expert (and veteran food writer), Alan Richman, demystifies the decision-making process in the magazine's October issue.

Below, take a look at some of our favorite tips. Visit GQ.com for more.

  • Beware of snappy adjectives.
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    When talking to the sommelier, stick to basics: red or white, sweet or dry, fat or lean, oaky or not oaky. If he starts talking about lavender petals and garrigue, put your head on the table and pretend you’ve fallen asleep. Maybe he’ll go away.

    Read also: The Gringo's Guide to Cooking Mexican.
  • Seek out the secret stash.
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    Most sommeliers have wines they particularly like that they save for people they particularly like. Start by asking the sommelier where she’s from. Often such wines are from the region where the sommelier was born or lived, and chances are they will be reasonably priced. I tried this at the midtown restaurant Rouge Tomate, and the sommelier, Pascaline Lepeltier, gasped,“My God, I have so much secret stash.” She brought out a 2007 Savennières that was dry but lush, unusual for a Chenin Blanc.
  • Remember the names of top importers, people like Eric Solomon, Kermit lynch, Terry Theise, and neal Rosenthal.
    Ask the sommelier if he has any wines from them. He might never have heard such a question. He will be impressed.

    Read also: GQ's Guide to Getting the Perfect Cut from your Butcher.
  • Sign up for e-newsletters from restaurants you like.
    Follow them on Twitter. Like them on Facebook. Restaurants often have nights when the list is discounted or guests can bring bottles without paying corkage.
  • Strike when you spot a bargain.
    I’m always ready with an underpriced white, something I can order quickly and confidently. These days I choose from three wines: from Spain, Verdejos (delicate) and Godellos (more robust). From Argentina, Torrontés (fruity). Want to wow the sommelier? Ask for a still wine made from Spain’s Xarel-lo grape. Smile modestly when he looks at you with awe.

    Read also: Beer School: Black Lager, the Perfect Early Fall Beer

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