Don't Fear the Wine List!

PUBLISHED: 00:16 23 March 2011 | UPDATED: 12:00 28 February 2013

Jon Keast

Jon Keast

In his new column for Cornwall Life, Jon Keast, owner of Scarlet Wines in Lelant, helps quell our fear of the restaurant wine list

In his new column for Cornwall Life, Jon Keast, owner of Scarlet Wines in Lelant, helps quell our fear of the restaurant wine list

We are lucky in Cornwall to be blessed with some fantastic restaurants. We have great local produce and seafood, and a meal out can be a great experience.
The wine should, of course, add to this. For some mortals, however, there is something about wine in restaurants that fills us with dread. Dread of the list, the pronunciation, the fearful silence while you taste the wine and, worst of all, dread of the know-it-all sommelier.
Why does it have to be like this? Wine should be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, or just plain intoxicating. I think it stems from an English cultural error; for some reason we Brits have been brought up to think wine is something elitist, snobby and something that needs to be understood. Nonsense!
Wine can be all of those things, but it should be simple, enjoyable and, above all, never scary. So next time you venture out, here are a few suggestions that might help.
First, ask questions. Any restaurant worth its salt will have a member of staff who knows the list. They will know the better wines, what goes with your meal choices and, most importantly, they will be pleased you have asked.
Second, experiment. If you always drink the same grape, style or make of wine, you are missing out. Explore the less visited corners of the list. Look out for grapes like Bonarda, Grenache, Primitivo, Viognier, Torrontes, and the awfully named Gewurztraminer. They all offer fantastic and memorable wine experiences.
Third, be confident about, and enjoy, the whole tasting the wine ritual. There are two parts to this. The waiter should show you the bottle unopened. You then confirm it is the wine you ordered and see it is an unadulterated bottle. He or she will then pour you a small glass so you can check the wine is not off. This is rare with screw-caps but it can still happen. Often a good sniff is enough as wine that is off usually smells pretty bad. And thats it! Its a ritual designed to help and nothing to be afraid of.
Lastly, if you find the wine in your restaurant dull, the advice feeble or the staff arrogant, then go somewhere else! There are a lot of great restaurants in Cornwall, and for most of them wine is a central part of what they offer.

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