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Grape Expectations 

It's not uncommon to be befuddled by a restaurant's wine list. After little more than a roll call of unrecognizable names and respective prices, your pocketbook and intellect will inevitably have different opinions on which to choose. Never mind the difference between the Zinfandel and the Shiraz, the GewÜrztraminer and the Chardonnay; most patrons get stopped up on the simple task of choosing between red and white.

For Atlantans in the Vinings area, wine bar and restaurant The Grape has stepped in to help take the guesswork out of choosing a wine. Forget the tried-and-true groupings by grape varieties -- here the wine is classified on a scale of one to 10, with ones boasting the lightest body and crisp fruit flavor, and sixes spanning the fullest bodied reds.

If you prefer a Pinot Noir but want to try something slightly different, you can simply search the multipage wine list for the Pinot -- typically a four -- and see what other wines in that number grouping might fit your fancy.

But wait, if the rubiest of reds are only a six, what about seven through 10? They are the oddballs that don't quite fit in the lower numbers. Sparkling wines as well as reds and whites that are more than $30 per bottle boast membership in this range.

Is your head spinning yet? Don't worry -- it's not just the fermented fruit. As one acute friend remarked, it seemed simpler to just ask for a recommendation.

Operating under the slogan, "Taste is all that matters," The Grape fastidiously washes its hands of the need for recommendations. Instead, it focuses on the idea that by providing one, they are imparting their tastes on you. There's no better evidence of this than in the wine shop, where rather than answering questions with a description, staff is encouraged to simply provide a taste from the bar.

Though it does seem awfully American to try to find a shortcut toward choosing a wine, The Grape has clearly developed a system that works for its customers, who fill the snug copper-and-cobalt bar to near capacity even on the dreariest of weekday nights. In an ideal world, the wine bar's concept would help customers not simply satisfy their current tastes, but further develop them and learn their true scope, providing knowledge and an ability to express their preferred libations in a broader context.

The Grape. 4300 Paces Ferry Road. 770-803-WINE. Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11-1 a.m.

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