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Education and Etiquette: Reading a Wine List

James Suckling

Lesson time 15:58 min

Along with legendary winemaker Lamberto Frescobaldi, James demystifies the process of reading a wine list. Gain the knowledge and etiquette to properly order in a restaurant setting, as well as share from your own collection.

James Suckling
Teaches Wine Appreciation
Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.
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I thought it might be helpful to take a moment to deconstruct a wine list with a friend of mine, Lamberto Frescobaldi, whose families have been making wines for 600 years in Tuscany. - I have a lot of fun actually buying wine in restaurants. It can be daunting sometimes if you're not sure what to pick. There's those wine lists that are like a phone book and thick and, like, you don't even know where to start. There's thousands of wines to buy. So think of the situation, maybe make a quick selection for something that's going to be drinkable and delicious, and everyone can enjoy while you're spending time going through the wine list. And of course, don't forget the owner or the somm or whoever is in charge of the wine program. That's the first place to go if you don't have an idea of what you want to drink. If they don't really know, then you have to go by region or type of wine. Let's say you're fond of German dry Riesling from the middle of Mosel, you might pick that. Or you like red burgundies, you might pick that. You go by vintage if you don't know who the producer is so you would know that 2015 red burgundy was excellent. Or you know that 2010 Bordeaux was great or 2007 Brunello. Also if I'm going to a restaurant with a big wine list, I often look at the wine list online. That's a good way to figure it out. You take a look at it. Look at different categories. It gives you an idea of what areas they might be better in. Everyone has one of those restaurant wine list horror stories of buying the wrong wine or spending a lot of money on a bottle of wine that they didn't like. So you want to make the right selection. And I think that, in general, and there's nothing wrong with it, you have to make the decision based on price first. Come up with the idea, how much do I want to spend tonight. And if you think you're going to order a couple of bottles of wine, then you need to think about that as well. Plan ahead, it's all about planning ahead. Lamberto, you have a number of restaurants. We have your wine list here with us. What ideas do you have? - Being a producer, I love to look at wine lists. And if you visit 100 different restaurants, you will have 100 different wine lists, that they are organized in different ways. So what we did over the last years is we have been giving a two sentence of explanation of what is the wine. So not only the color, rose, white, red, also the place, and then it really tried to help our customers to choose. - I think you might find it interesting how I organized my wine list in Phuket, Thailand, by the moment and the style of the wine. So if you're at the pool, you're obviously going to want something fresh and delicious. So I came up with some clean, bright, fresh wines, like some roses from Cotes de Provence or beautiful whites from Alto Adige or something spicy or richer in the main dining room, like a beautiful Serra from Italy or a bold Cabernet from the United States. An...

Discover the story in every bottle

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his wine tasting MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Really enjoyed James. Would have preferred if it went into more details on techniques

Great MasterClass! Loved getting to learn more about every step of the wine process, and definitely had some practical tips for the home wine connoisseur.

It has inspired me to start trying different wines from different countries. Can't wait to start.

Brought the romance, art, and science of wine to me. Now time to go out and practice!


A fellow student

I love this because I am one to always want to try new wines but the list is daunting

Markus D.

So interesting to listen to these two professionals exchanging on topics few people usually talk about.

Ellen S.

Love order a bottle you know first to give you time to look over the wine list, also look online before dinner.

Jamie K.

I would love to sit by his side for a moment. I lost my taste in horseback concrete brain collision....most of these would be wasted on me, I still love the process....and this is incredible!

A fellow student

The best restaurants are like my local Indian, superb food, but bring your own wine.This ensures that I have a wine that I really like and I do not have to suffer a 300% mark up on quite often a mediocre wine.There is no corkage fee.I do not not feel ripped off and leave a bigger tip.

A fellow student

Kind of useless. Look at the price? What kind of wine do you like? Not really great advise.

Tom B.

If in Egypt, go for the local producers due to the Egypt wine-tax. There is a wide selection of good local white and red's!

A fellow student

Not broad enough for a general course in wine. Too focused on Italy. Good information but needs to focus more on general principles.

Reagan V.

From a wine idiot and I strongly express IDIOT, this discussion alone was so informative an enlightening. It to me embodies what someone from the outside wants to hear from those from the inside. Thank you for this one lesson alone.

A fellow student

JS gives some good guidelines on how to handle being "that person" who is responsible for picking the wines for a nice dinner out. His suggestions are particularly insightful if you are dining on cruise ships, or traveling in emerging nations. Stick with what you know to be good. Varieties and vintages.