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While you might be a wine aficionado, it can still be overwhelming to order a bottle in a restaurant. And there’s nothing worse than looking bad at an important business dinner or on a first date. So to find out how to look like you know what you're doing, we turned to Michel Couvreux, Head Sommelier at Per Se. Read on to get his tips on how to become a wine-ordering expert in no time.

Front door to Per Se
Sommelier Michael Covreaux

What if someone is intimidated by sommeliers?

They shouldn’t be. Some people think we’re going to serve a wine that’s more expensive than their budget or give them something they don’t like. But that’s the image of the past: Today, sommeliers are much more open-minded and approachable than they used to be.

So you’re handed the wine list, but you’re totally baffled. What should you do first?

You shouldn’t be afraid to say you don’t know much about wine and what your budget is. But to get around it, you could say: “I prefer a bold red wine” or “I usually drink Sauvignon Blanc. Do you have something you can recommend?” A good sommelier is going to give you four or five recommendations at different prices.

Woman reviewing the wine list
Sommelier Michael Couvreaux smelling a glass of white wine

What if the choices are too expensive — and you don’t want to admit it?

You can subtly point to a cheaper bottle on the menu and say, “I like this wine. Do you have something else you can recommend?” By motioning to the price, the sommelier will know you want something less expensive.

Is it a good idea to go around the table and ask everybody what they like?

No! Some people like dry, some people like sweet. And if you have a table of six people, they’re all going to like something different.

People reviewing the wine list
Chalkboard wine list

Do you have a short list of wines that would please everyone at the table?

Malbec from Argentina is a crowd pleaser: It’s fruity enough, but not too earthy. It has the medium body of a Pinot Noir, but without the dryness of a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want to go with a middle-of-the-road French wine, choose Cotes du Rhone.

What about a white?

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fruity, crisp, very dry — not oaky or bitter. With French wines, you’ll want to order Sancerre.

How about rose?

You can’t go wrong with a rose from France — it will always be dry. And don’t overpay. If your rose is expensive, that’s because of marketing: 95% of roses taste the same. In France, rose is table lunch wine. It’s what you drink in the summertime. It’s never something fancy, and it’s not complicated. It’s just rose.

Now that you know how to order wine, keep coming back for a wine-lover's guide to the summer season. Over the coming months, we're going to be talking to the insiders at The Restaurant and Bar Collection at Time Warner Center to get their lowdown on summer reds, whites, roses, and everything in between. Cheers!

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