Questions to Ask a Sommelier So You Won’t Feel Foolish

When it comes to fine dining, nothing beats a glorious meal paired with a nice wine. But most people only know three types of wine – Red, White and (my personal favorite) “that pink one you had on New Years’ Eve Last January”. It does help to know the difference between a Merlot, a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and a blush.

But that doesn’t mean that you’ll understand that wine list you’re handed at the fancier establishments. But the sommelier who hands that list to you isn’t just there to be snooty (well, not all of them). They’re trained to help you find exactly what would make your meal even better. So, here are five questions you can ask your sommelier that’ll keep you from looking like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  1. I just had __________; do you have anything like that?

A good reference point is excellent at helping the sommelier figure out just what you might like. This can be either a specific brand you once had or (if you can’t remember the name) just the region and the type of wine it was. If you say you once enjoyed a California Chardonnay, you should be pointed in the right direction.

  1. I‘ve been curious about _______, what do you suggest?

Here, once again, know a region and a wine type is essential for helping the sommelier make a good suggestion. But letting them know that you’re going to be trying this type for the first time also lets them know that they should probably suggest something accessible and a good introduction so you won’t be put off by something you’re palette is not quite used to and won’t enjoy as a result.

  1. What would you suggest under _________?

You are probably on a budget, but you don’t want to make anyone think you’ll drink any cheap Spanish anti-freeze. Asking the question this way lets the sommelier demonstrate their knowledge while still letting you stay within your budget. They would sympathize anyway, trust me. No one knows a good deal on good wine better than a sommelier.

  1. What are you excited about?

This is much better than “What do you suggest?” That question is way too broad and doesn’t give the sommelier any clues as to what you might be interested in. Phrasing the question that way not only lets them give a more helpful suggestion, making it personal get them invested in wanting to suggest something you’re more likely to enjoy. Since they’re privy to some of the best wines from around the world, the chances of you enjoying their personal suggest when asked this way is very high.

  1. We’re planning on having ___________, what goes really well with that?

It’s extremely helpful to set parameters for any sommelier’s suggestion. Asking the question this way give them an idea what would pair best with whatever you’re eating and helps you from not having a wine that might overpower delicate flavors of your meal or fail to complement these flavors.