How to choose wine from a restaurant wine list

Buying a bottle of wine from the restaurant wine list can be intimidating. Bottles prices in restaurants are expensive and you don’t want to make a costly mistake. Fortunately, there are three simple strategies to help you make the right decision.

Strategy #1: Stick with what you know
Start by looking for bottles of wine you know and love. If you spot something you like and it seems like a good price, get it.

Finding something familiar immediately solves two problems. First, you know you like it, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a lousy bottle. Second, you generally have a better idea if a bottle you know is a good deal or not, so you are less likely to feel price anxiety when you pick a favorite bottle that seems reasonably priced.

Strategy #2: Try before you buy
Asking to try before you buy is a great move if you don’t find something familiar on the wine list.

How can you get a free sample? Look for wines that are offered by the glass. The restaurant will have bottles of those wines already open and most will let you taste a wine or two if it helps you choose a bottle. If you try it and like it you can order a full bottle with confidence.

Strategy #3: Tell your server what you like
If all else fails, tell your server what you like and what price point you are comfortable paying.

Servers are typically very familiar with the wines they serve. They can suggest a wine based on your tastes, budget, and the food you order. 

Sharing a bottle of Layer Cake Primitivo, purchased from the wine list, with friends Kurt and Eve.

Posted on August 7, 2011 and filed under Tasting Experiences.