Midday Fix: How to read a wine list

Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, the World Wine Guys


To purchase a copy of the book:

Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to 50 Essential Varieties and Styles

Tips and Suggestions:

Head straight to the “by the glass” section and order yourself and your companion glasses of wine. This takes the pressure off and gives you a few minutes to decide what you’re eating and thus what you are drinking. Then, avoid expensive varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir—the more popular the grape, the more expensive it will be. Also avoid expensive styles like Classified Bordeaux or Barolo. Head for lesser known countries like Greece or Bulgaria, or less popular grapes such as Merlot, Zinfandel, or Shiraz.

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro:
This is one of the most popular Greek wines in the US, so it should be easy to find in one of the many Greek restaurants in Chicago. It has rich plum and blackberry flavors and it is excellent with lamb and beef dishes.

Skyfall Merlot:
Merlot gets a bad rap, which is great news for bargain-minded wine lovers. One from Washington State—so it’s a less-loved grape from a less popular region, making it a double hitter in the bargain zone. With flavors of black cherry and raspberry, it is ideal with burgers, pizza, or pork chops.

Peter Lehmann Portrait Shiraz:
Also called Syrah in France, Shiraz is a variety that everybody loves but nobody buys—so it is an especially good value. Peter Lehmann is from Australia’s Barossa Valley, home to some of the world’s best Shiraz. Flavors of dark berries and spice are a natural with barbecue, steak, or Portobello mushrooms.

Kunde Sonoma Valley Zinfandel:
Sonoma as a region is home to some pretty pricy Pinot Noirs these days, but Zinfandel does not have the same cachet. Hailing from Italy and Croatia originally, it was brought to California by European immigrants during the Gold Rush. It is terrific with Italian American fare such as chicken parmigiana or pasta with red sauce, or with spare ribs and Peking duck.