Picking a wine in a restaurant

It can be a little difficult to choose a wine from a restaurants wine list. Most of the time the descriptions of wines are often inaccurate or are brief sentences and the prices are so extraordinarily high that it sometimes can intimidate you into choosing a bad wine. Most restaurants also are unequipped to provide a sommelier or a waitperson with considerable wine knowledge. It is hard enough to choose the food from the menu let alone the wine, so here are a few tips to help you make a confident decision.

Go with what you know and choose familiar bottles of wine you like. Experimenting and blind choosing a wine you have never tried can turn a good dinner into a horrible experience. Let’s face it, you want to make a good impression on your dining companions especially if you are on a date so always pick a wine that you have enjoyed and don’t make the mistake of picking blindly.

Do not think that the expensive bottles of wine are the best. As we all know, the pricing of wine in a restaurant can be highway robbery and most bottles are marked up twice the retail value, if not more. Always remember that price doesn’t reflect quality and it can be very disappointing but an expensive bottle of wine can taste cheap.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the wine. Most of the wine lists in good restaurants should have all the information regarding vintage, varietal, and price. If the wine list doesn’t include this info then ask for it. This is a scam for some restaurants trying to profit from an undesirable vintage. Also beware of the “mark up”. If you know what you would pay for the wine in a wine store than the restaurants price should be no more than twice the cost of the store price. If the wine is more than twice than you know you are paying too much.

Call the restaurant to see if you could bring your own bottle. Some restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle and usually just charge a corking fee per bottle. Calling ahead also gives you an opportunity to see what wines they do have available and their pricing. Also be ready for some uncomfortable looks if you bring a bottle from their menu. They might not mind if you bring a bottle they don’t stock but if you bring something from their list, they might give you some hassle.

Be wary of the overpriced glass. You can get four glasses out of an average sized bottle so if that one glass is priced for more than the bottle cost, it would be better to just buy the bottle.

Not all restaurants are highway robbers and some are honest so don’t let one bad experience ruin your respect for your restaurant Sommelier. At the same point you shouldn’t believe everything you see. If something jumps out of the wine list and tells you it’s a great price then most likely it is too good to be true.

These are just a few tips that can help you with the daunting task of ordering wine at your restaurant. I think the main thing to remember is to make a confident and educated decision. Go with your knowledge of what you know about wine and you should be fine. Enjoy!

Further reading: Origins of Wine

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