Ordering wine in a restaurant without a sommelier or wine-savvy waiter, particularly when the list is long on wines from unfamiliar vineyards, can be hit or miss.
Who wouldn’t love a quick checklist of the world’s best and most versatile wines? By familiarizing yourself with the following versatile grape varietals, selecting the right wine for anything from steak to gazpacho will be less daunting.
Generally these wines will not be extreme in acidity, tannin or price.
Because of the moderate acidity and tannins, most Italian wines complement an array of foods. But if put on the spot in an Italian restaurant, Chianti made from the sangiovese grape would be the most versatile wine on the list.
- 2009 Coltibuono Chianti Cetamura DOCG, Italy (about $13 retail)
- 2009 Coltibuono Chianti Classico Estate, Italy (about $28 retail)
The Gruner Veltliner grape complements almost any food offering. With its slight spiciness and bright acidity, it pairs well with the range of flavors in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. Growing in popularity, it’s showing up on many Asian restaurant wine lists.
- 2009 Michlits Stadlmann Gruner Veltliner, Austria (about $17 retail)
- 2009 Oriel Or tolan Falkenstein Gruner Veltliner, Austria (about $25 retail)
Keeping in mind seafood’s varying texture and weight, you need a wine that can not only complement but also compete. Chardonnay is found on almost every wine list in the world and is a safe bet to order with seafood.
- 2010 Concannon Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2010 J. Lohr Chardonnay Riverstone, California (about $18 retail)
Perhaps no other cuisine in the world demands a proper wine pairing more than French food. Rather than chose a pricey Bordeaux or Burgundy, consider a wine from Northern Rhone. It is likely to be one of the best values on the list, and it complements a wide range of dishes.
- Cellier Des Dauphins Cotes Du Rhone Rouge, France (about $9 retail)
- Domaine de la Becassonne Cotes du Rhone Rouge, France (about $18 retail)