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The Wine List Code

Wine lists can sometimes be like a Dan Brown novel, loosely based on fact and surprisingly popular. Sometimes they are great and sometimes they are not. Like a Dan Brown novel you have to read it before you can tell if you like it or not. This article will hopefully give you a few tips to make things a bit easier when it comes to choosing the wine you have with dinner.

First off, talk to the Wine Waiter (aka Sommelier). If they seem confident, knowledgeable and passionate about the list then it might be best to listen to their advice. If they suggest a wine by the glass they may even be able to give you a small taste of the wine they are recommending before you commit.

The problem comes when the waiter doesn’t seem all that confident (or competent) and you have to make your own choice. Or if you are trying to impress someone and don’t want to be seen taking advice.

If the wine list has interesting wines on there, such as; Gruner Veltliner or Blaufrankish (both Austrian varieties), a good selection of wines from all over the world or even a wine from Marlborough in New Zealand that isn’t Sauvignon Blanc then it could be safe to assume there has been some thought put into the list and therefore most of the wines are good quality and interesting.


In the event that it is quite a conservative list, you can always stick to the classics (after all there is a reason they are classics). Riesling from Clare Valley, Sauvignon Blanc from Adelaide Hills, Hunter Semillon, Coonawarra Cabernet and the like.

If you are feeling adventurous and you spot them on the list the following are usually very reliable: Wines from Waiheke Island in New Zealand.
Chardonnay or Pinot from Marlborough.
Wines from Tumbarumba in NSW.
Shiraz or Riesling from Canberra District and Hilltops Regions.
Austrian Gruner Veltliner (think Riesling).
Riesling from Rheingau in Germany.
South American Malbec or blends or Malbec.

The other consideration is the best three letters in the English language B.Y.O – most restaurants will allow this (generally with a corkage fee) and this obviously gives you a chance to take whatever you can lay your hands on.