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In need of crash course in wine

I've been slowly learning about wines for the past few years. Today I interviewed for a position in a restaurant that requires (unbeknownst to me) an extensive wine knowledge. I was honest in saying that I don't know much about wine. The manager is willing to give me a chance as I have other applicable experience.

Can you help me? What are the most important things that I should know about wine (and beer)? What can I learn quickly that will impress the restaurant staff?

Any tips are greatly appreciated.

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  1. I assume when the restaurant says "extensive wine knowledge" they mean " with relation to their wine list".
    Is the list publicly available?
    Can you post it?
    The more info you can post on that regard, I'm sure the more expedient practical advise you'll get from board members.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      Good advice. Also, post the menu, as matching specific wines on the wine list to specific dishes will be important.
      Ask the chef for tips/suggestions in this regard. Keep a little cheat sheet on an index card in your pocket. Learn proper wine service (lots of tips on this board).

    2. Two good books for newbies are "Fear of Wine" and "Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine."

      1. I agree with Maria that proper wine service is key.

        A cheat that I used to use it to pick one or two reds and whites in each price point, Google their tasting notes and pimp those, until I had a firmer grasp of the wines on the list.

        1. Grab Andrea Immer's "Great Wine Made Simple." Her current name is Andrea Robinsion, but I doubt that the latest edition will reflect that. Gather a handful of friends, SO's, partners, and get busy with the homework. OK, the exact wines listed are probably not what you will find today, but you will be able to substitute, and you must do the homework.

          Good luck,


          1. Total Wines has this book that they put out. Nothing fancy, but quick, straight to the point and informative. It's easy to read with many good examples, nothing too technical. My first book was Windows to the World.

            3 Replies
            1. re: triggs73

              "Windows" is a very good book too. Kevin was Andrea Immer's mentor, and she learned well, IMHO.


              1. re: triggs73

                It's "Windows on the World", in case the OP goes to look for it.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  You are correct. I mis-read Triggs' listing. Actually, the official title is "Windows on the World, Complete Wine Course - A Lively Guide, by Kevin Zraly, Sterling Publications, ISBN: 0-8069-7649-7.

                  Note: in later editions, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the benefit of the families of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center - the location of the restaurant and wine cellar.


              2. Is the manager going to let you sample from the wine list at the end of the night? I should hope you could have a little pour if they sell by the glass. (Is this practiced in the industry? I've never managed a restaurant.) I would think that tasting and making notes as well as tasting the menu from the kitchen would be the best, most directly applicable education. This could get tricky if the menu changes nightly, but then just focus on learning the wine list and giving yourself mnemonic tricks to recall your notes. Some managers won't mind if you use crib notes for a while, but that will depend on the level of service at this particular restaurant. Some places that just won't fly.

                Try to learn about the list's various regions, their growing conditions and its effects on the particular grapes. If you know what weather happened where and which areas had good years when, coworkers may assume you've been studying a long time without asking for clarification. It might come off as pretentious if you throw these little tidbits into too many conversations, though!

                2 Replies
                1. re: amyzan

                  While I cannot speak for this restaurant, there are often "tasting classes," based around the fare from the kitchen and the offerings from the cellar. All serving staff should be involved in this practice, and the sommelier, or cellar master, or head server, should conduct such.

                  When new wines, or new dishes are added, a "refresher course" would be a good idea.

                  Think of a server, possibly recommending wines that they have never tasted, especially in accompaniment to the dishes from that kitchen.

                  Though I have a fair knowledge of wines, that is why I will often defer to the sommelier - he/she should know their cellar and also know what the kitchen is up to at that moment. All it takes is a variation on a sauce, and things might well change drastically.

                  A good restauranteur will set up such classes.


                  1. re: amyzan

                    At my restaurant, I'm in charge of making sure each new server learns to critically taste, and uses that knowledge to try every btg pour we feature. I also conduct an ongoing series of con. ed. to keep the staff abreast of new (to them) regions, grapes and wines.

                  2. Read this article so you'll understand the difference between varietal wines and blended wines. This is step one, IMO:


                    1. Quick and cheap idea: Buy yourself an Aroma Wheel by UCD Professor Anne Noble (about $6). With the money you save, buy a copy of Emile Peynaud's "Knowing and Making Wine"

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        I buy the AC Noble wheels in bulk, and then hand them out at International Wine & Food Society events, as the general door prize. Most attendees love them, as do I.

                        Lots of fun, and also very useful.


                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Even cheaper and easier - find it on the internet and print it...



                          1. re: Cookiefiend

                            Hey everyone! Sorry that I've haven't replied to your posts. Thanks so much for all of your ideas. Me and hubby will definitely be trying them.

                            Unfortunately, I didn't get the job, after working a full shift they never called me back (or paid me for that shift). This has happened to a couple other people that I know also.