Like Fine Wine: How To Pick Wine Like A Boss with Sommelier Michelle Erland


Michelle Erland, GM of Giovanni Rana NYC gracefully popped the cork on our inaugural Mind of a Mentor podcast. With a touch of elegance and class, Michelle offered her wine biz expertise by giving us a laywoman’s guide on how to become an everyday sommelier.  

Let’s face it,  although a girl’s best friend, when it comes to selecting wine, things can become daunting and downright intimidating.

We take a deeper look on how to make your wine choice the best choice.

Talk to the Sommelier

Often when we’re selecting wine we default to trivial characteristics like names, prices and packaging. You’ll hear things like: “A cheap wine is a cheap wine” or “I heard all Italian wines are great” The problem with this is we’re not taking into account our unique pallets. There’s so much nuance when it comes to selecting wine that it would make sense to consult with an expert if there’s one available.

Most wine stores or restaurants have a  sommelier on site or at the very least an expert who can take you through the in’s and out’s on how to make the best choice.

“When I’m at a restaurant or a wine store, I always speak to the Sommelier or the person who’s buying the wine because they’re going to know the product.”
– Michelle Erland

Keeping An Open Mind

I personally believe that wine shopping is an experience filled with adventure and a little bit of mystery. I mean it’s totally cool to play favorites and have a regular go-to brand, but think about this: it’s reported that there are anywhere between 100,000-200,000  brands of wine in the world. That’s a lot of grapes!

With that said, it’s important that you keep an open mind when it’s time to make your decision. You never know how a special occasion can be affected by four simple words:

“Let’s try something new”.

“I would say my advice in wine shopping is to be open-minded because you’d be surprised, a lot of people will hear a name of something and won’t try it because they don’t know or recognize the name.”
– Michelle Erland

Don’t Get Caught Up With The “Glamorous Terms”

We’ve all done it. “Give me a wine that’s oaky” or “Do you have something a little more spicy”. Admit it, you went to that one house party, overheard a descriptive wine term and haven’t stopped using it since. Michelle’s advice is to not become too preoccupied with “glamorous terms” used to describe wines. Try to learn more about the fruits and ingredients, which tells you way more about your options. Education is key.  

For example, Oak can resemble a baked spice like vanilla or a fruit like a coconut. Two different ingredients, one description.  Wine terms are just a basic way of helping people understand what they are tasting.  

Ditch the words and understand the process.

“I call them “glamorous terms”. I mean they might say something like creamy to you or spicy, and it could indicate numerous things in a wine.”
– Michelle Erland

For more on how Michelle became a master of grapes, listen to our podcast below.

You can also listen to the Mind of a Mentor podcast by clicking on your favorite podcast app below.