I’d like to reference something I just ran across on the web. It’s Pim’s secret to getting good value wines from fancy lists in Europe. While Pim sets the sommelier to task finding an interesting bottle, at a price of 50 – 100 euros, (a not unreasonable range in most very good restaurants, although we go a lot lower in bistros) that’s not likely to be easily found in the U.S., to go with the tasting menu we generally add a requirement that it be a local wine whenever possible.

Often, when faced with an extensive list, looking at the regional wines is a good way to narrow the field even without a sommelier to help and a good restaurant is likely to have made good contacts among local suppliers. There are a number of reasons why this last request might not be advisable beginning with the fact that you may not be in an area that produces interesting wine, or that the local wines are not particularly good values, but to a great extent, that’s overcome for us by being able to associate certain wines with certain places. Call it the terroir of travel, if you will. For us, a list of Burgundies reads like a road map, and labels of some Bordeaux are entwined with the sight of the chateau from the road. The albariños of Rias Baixas in Galicia seem to have so much more flavor now that we’ve seen them growing on trellises supported by those strange concrete pillars.