Have you ever been out to eat with a client, a prospect, your boss or colleague (let alone on a date!) and felt totally lost when handed the wine list?

Here’s a little secret: you’re not alone. We’ve all been there – even us wine pros and Sommeliers. Sure, there’s a lot to geek out on if you want to. But that’s true about a lot of things.

Meetings and social occasions alike are (or should be) about getting the proverbial conversation started and building rapport. You don’t need a PhD or your Master Sommelier certification for wine to be one of the tools in your tool belt. Often just a few tidbits can help break the ice and get you where you want to go, just like knowing how to tie your shoes. (Think how many successful steps you’ve taken since you picked up those few essential pointers!)

Here are FOUR juicy nuggets of wine wisdom to help turn your discomfort into discourse.

1 ●  The Wine World is divided into just 2 categories: Old World + New World.   

Old World wines come from Europe. Historically, that sounds familiar, right? Christopher Columbus sailed from the Old World (aka Europe) to ‘discover’ a New World. In wine terms, it is the same: New World wines are made in places that Europeans colonized, including the Americas, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Now that you’ve got that sorted, the wine world is at your fingertips! Here's how:

2 ●  Old World wines tend to be food-loving while New World wines can stand alone. 

This is a bold statement and it is not to suggest there isn’t a LOT of diversity within each category. But we promised to cut to the chase here. Stylistically New World wines tend to be friendlier, they read smoother when you taste them. In contrast, Old World wines tend to be more reserved. When everyone’s favorite wing-man, Food, shows up however, Old World wines come out of their shell; an easier-going, more friendly experience evolves.

In effect: If you’re just grabbing a glass at the bar, or you want a bottle that will segway with you into dinner, choose from the New World.

3 ●  “If it grows together it goes together.”   

There is a reason the local cuisine complements the local wines. They are birds of a feather, so flock together! Apply this idea to wine selection. Case in point: Argentina is perhaps best known for its beef, so their red wines are a great choice if you’re at a Steakhouse. Naturally, red-sauced Italian fare works well with many Italian red wines – start there.

Still too many options on the list? Use what you now know from the above to narrow down what you’re in the mood for stylistically (aka friendlier/smoother vs. reserved/food-loving*) and apply the next tip.

4 ●  Use your budget to your advantage when asking for help. 

It’s always a winning strategy when you can empower someone to help you, right? Meanwhile, you can rest assured having a budget when selecting a wine is also an asset. It helps the person you’ve asked narrow the playing field even further.

With an inquiry as simple as –

“You’ve got a great selection here – I’m excited. Can you help me make a choice? I’ll help you by narrowing the playing field. I’m looking for a (XX*) bottle around $YY.”

– you’ve just given their ego a little boost while being clear about what you want, for the price you want it.

Have burning questions? Use the comments field below, or give a shout! We’ll collect the most commonly asked questions and continue this series.