There are few things more overwhelming to me than a super-long wine list, and I often rely heavily on my waiter or sommelier to steer me in the right direction. Communication is important here, and (lucky for me) Lucky Peach has some tips on how to ask for (and get) what you want.
Photo by Wojtek Szkutnik.
As wine expert Robert Bohr explains in the link below, the trick lies in articulating not only what flavours you like, but what kind of night you're aiming for:
It's also important to communicate what kind of experience you're looking to have. "I'm out with my college buddies and we just want to have a bottle of wine because we want to drink," or "I'm out with my in-laws and I want to kind of show off a little bit," or "I'm with my in-laws and I DON'T want to show off" — these are all going to require different bottles.
Also, don't get hung up on using the right lingo. Describe the flavours you like the best you can; plain English is fine. (Personally, I can never taste "forest floor" or "slate" in my glass.) If all you know is that you like Charles Shaw Cabernet, but want to try something a little fancier, just say that. A good sommelier can take that information and use it to pick the right bottle, and will do so without attitude. In words of my favourite bartender of all time (Marco at Bern's Steakhouse), purveyors of ethanol are "there to make drinks, not judgements".
How to Order Wine in a Restaurant [Lucky Peach]