Steve Cuozzo, restaurant critic for the NY Post, has a rant about wine lists today (“Sour Grapes“). He complains about “esoteric or pretentious” wine lists, filled with Greek wines and grapes he’s never heard of and producers he doesn’t know. Such lists leave him stumped and “at the mercy of a sommelier determined to teach you a thing or two, when all you want is a nice, affordable Bordeaux to go with chicken and summer greens.”
He sure plays a good curmudgeon! But he does have a point: wine can be overwhelming and it’s common to feel swamped when trying to navigate a wine list. Some diners may feel overwhelmed with any list while others, like Cuozzo, may have taken the training wheels off and feel comfortable with certain regions (though pairing Bordeaux with chicken and mixed greens does make the reader wonder about his palate–really, try the assyrtiko.).
All the places that Cuozzo describes in his column sound like they have serious wine programs with someone on staff who has created a wine list with some wines he or she is really excited about. Rather than feeling at the “mercy” of said person, Cuozzo would be best advised to engage that person in discussion about what’s good and what they would recommend with chicken and mixed greens, hear a bit of the story of those who made the wine or how it was made. Who knows, if he did that a few times, he might even learn a thing or two about them there “esoteric” varieties, and feel more comfortable ordering wine off of such lists himself. Then the grapes would not be sour to him, and he could offer advice to his readers about how sweet it is to be armed with a bit more wine knowledge.
What do you do when you encounter a wine list dominated by wines you don’t know much about?