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‘The only job wine has is to make you happy:’ Navigating wine lists in the St. Louis area

Meera Nagarajan, Andrey Ivanoff, and Glenn Bardgett discussed wine on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Meera Nagarajan, Andrey Ivanoff, and Glenn Bardgett discussed wine on "St. Louis on the Air."

While many people may envision St. Louis as a beer town, the city and surrounding region is also home to many restaurants (and wineries!) contributing to the area’s cachet as a tasty space for wine lovers.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, the team from Sauce Magazine joined us for the next edition of Sound Bites. We discussed wine: wine lists, wine types and what you need to know about ordering a glass in St. Louis.

Sauce Magazine’s art director, Meera Nagarajan, was joined by Glenn Bardgett, the wine director at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, and Andrey Ivanoff, the beverage director at Reed’s American Table in Maplewood.

Here’s what you need to know to navigate a wine list in St. Louis:

DON'T: "Drink what you think you're supposed to drink and not drink what you like."

That’s according to Bardgett, whose work with the Missouri wine industry has taught him that some people are intimidated into buying certain things.

“Because Missouri wines are sweet, people think they are lesser quality wines,” Bardgett said. “I’m like, no, drink what you like.”

DO: Ask for a restaurant's wine professional for advice.

You don’t have to know what’s the best thing to drink on the wine list, said Ivanoff.

Bardgett, for example, does a wine class with his servers before opening the restaurant.

If the restaurant doesn’t have a sommelier, look through the list and hone in on things you recognize. Look for similar price points or grapes in the wine and make a choice from there.

DON'T: Abide by the 'red meat, red wine' or 'fish or fowl, white wine' rule.

Bardgett said the prevailing wisdom is that there is a perfect wine for every food, but he doesn’t buy it.

“To me, you match the person with the wine more so than the food with the wine,” Bardgett said. “If I give you the perfect wine for what you’re having, and you don’t like it, it is not the perfect wine.”

The same goes for chilling wine — if adding ice cubes satisfies you, do it.

“The only job wine has is to make you happy,” Bardgett said.

DON'T: Spend more than $20 on wine at the store.

Consider this permission: You can find a quality bottle for less than $20, often along the $12-15 price point, said Bardgett.

DO: Try one of these 'fool-proof' wine lists.

Nagarajan recommends Lucas Park Grille downtown, for affordable and reliable bottles of wine that will be worth your dollar. Truffles, in Ladue, has an 80 page wine list. Nagarajan said that you can find some unexpected wines on Truffles’ list, particularly from the Balkans.

Want more ideas? Sauce Magazine has a feature online about Portuguese wines. You can also check out Sauce Magazine’s September issue which features a “Guide to Drinking” in St. Louis.

This Sound Bites segment is produced as a part of a partnership between Sauce Magazine and St. Louis Public Radio.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.