Sommelier reveals the one thing to look for on wine menus

While wine has seemingly been around since the dawn of time, it hasn't gotten any easier to understand since our prehistoric ancestors deliberately fermented those very first grapes. Unless you've put in the due diligence and years' worth of homework to become a true wine snob, chances are you may experience a bit of confusion (or perhaps even a moment of outright panic) when confronted with a restaurant's mile-long wine list. So many words, so few of them in English! And unlike a food menu, where there's usually some kind of description that gives you at least some idea of what you're going to be eating, wine descriptions tend to throw around words like "amusing" (are you supposed to laugh uproariously while drinking it?) or "oaky" (Does this mean it'll make you grow roots, or will you instead start to act a little squirrelly?).

Even a master sommelier realizes that ordering wine in a restaurant can be a daunting process. As Jason Smith, MGM Resorts Executive Director of Wine, acknowledges, "A wine list can sometimes be intimidating with pages and pages of great choices." (And possibly a few not-so-great ones, as well, depending on personal preference.) Luckily, he did have some advice to offer us on how to simplify things a bit.

Look for wine recommendations

According to Smith, many wine menus will include a section of "Hidden Finds" or "Sommelier Selections" or something along those lines. He says that these are the wines that highlight the sommelier's particular area of expertise, admitting, "There are thousands and thousands of different wines in the world and it is impossible to focus on all of them. A sommelier will focus on the wines, regions, and/or varietals that excite them the most."

Smith also notes that sommelier-recommended wines "... often provide tremendous values as well as create superb food and wine pairings." And speaking of pairings, your food order should always be taken into account when you're choosing a wine to accompany your meal, so check and see if the food menu offers any suggestions along these lines, as well. A few of Smith's favorite classic pairings include, "Sauternes and Roquefort cheese, off-dry Riesling with spicy Thai food, and Chablis with oysters," but if you're a fan of more out-of-the-box couplings, you may wish to try Champagne and french fries or Cheez-Its with Chateau de BoƮte en Carton.