How To Choose Wine For A Dinner Date

How to get it right, by the sommelier at The Dorchester Hotel

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Jason McAuliffe, sommelier at The Dorchester Hotel, shares his tips.

You need to be thinking about quality not quantity.

I find the "wow" factor is easier to achieve with aromatic white wines, as their profiles tend to work well with modern cuisine. A good tip when choosing an unfamiliar aromatic white wine is to always ask the sommelier how much residual sugar is left in the wine, how noticeable it will be and whether it will work with your chosen dishes.

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If you're unsure of any wine-related questions, call the restaurant first and speak to the sommelier. Here are some of my favourite combinations.

1 | Sweet wine and foie gras

If she has old-school attitude, i.e. isn't too PC, the classic pairing of rich goose or duck liver served with a glass of sweet wine is a wicked way to start dinner. Try a sauternes or a sweet jurançon from southwest France.

2 | Viognier and scallops

This combination is a personal favourite. Scallops have a sensual texture and a sweet, flavour, perfectly matched by the fragrant, peachy and slightly viscous wines made from the viognier grape.

3 | Riesling and sushi / sashimi 

Again sushi and sashimi are sensual to the palate and are complemented brilliantly by zesty rieslings. Try dry styles from Alsace, New Zealand and Australia or an off-dry Kabinett from Germany's Mosel region.

4 | Puligny-Montrachet and turbot

If money isn't an issue then go for the suave and super luxurious pairing of Puligny-Montrachet and turbot. I always compare Puligny-Montrachet to Kate Moss: taut, racy and very sexy.

5 | Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris and Thai cuisine

Both these Alsace varietals work well with Asian cusine. Pinot gris is made from the same grape as pinot grigio — a wine she's probably enjoyed by the bucket in the past.

6 | Gruner Veltliner with anything

If you and your date decide on very different dishes, unleash the grüner, which will work well with anything from pork, chicken, veal, fish and seafood to curries and dishes with rich sauces.

7 | Malbec and steak

There is something very primal and darkly sensual about feasting on a bloody steak, which works with most medium- to full-bodied reds. I'd recommend Argentinian malbecs or cahors for their firm tannins.

8 | Dessert wine and pudding

My tip here is to share a glass of dessert wine, making the experience more intimate. The sweeter the pudding, the sweeter the wine, so, if you're ordering chocolate, go for a dark fortified wine such as banyuls or rivesal.

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