5 Tips for Discovering Restaurant Wine Value

Monday, August 9, 2010

This is a guest post from Dana Livingston from CulinarySchools.org

Restaurants often apply a heavy markup to bottles of wine they serve.  Now, this is not a ploy to bilk you out of your hard-earned money, it’s just business.  Keep in mind they not only have to pay for a liquor license to serve said tasty alcohol, but they also need to make a profit.  And while you can certainly bring your own bottle and pay the corking fee (it varies by restaurant, but tends to average out around $10), there are a few advantages to drinking what the house has to offer.  Consider these tasty tips for stretching your wine dollar when dining out.

1. Ask for Help

Many fine restaurants employ a professional whose sole job is to tell you what wine will pair best with your meal.  If they suggest something out of your price range, don’t be afraid to tell them as they often have a less expensive option up their sleeve.  Many are also willing to give you helpful tips on what to try first if you’re just starting on your long journey towards becoming a connoisseur.  If there’s no sommelier at the restaurant you’re visiting, ask your server, the restaurant manager, or even the cook what recommendations they can make.

Seek out restaurants that avoid the Top 10 Wine Service No No's for Restaurant Waitstaff.

2.  Attend Tasting Events

Some restaurants offer regular wine tasting events (often with dinner included) to give customers a chance to become familiar with their selection or a specific region.  These present a great opportunity to try a lot of different wines without committing to an expensive bottle you may not be thrilled with.  To learn about these opportunities subscribe to your favorite restaurant's E-mail list or check out LocalWineEvents.com.  An example is this one currently running at The Capital Grille through September 5th, 2010.

3. Buy by the Glass

There’s no better way to find out what you like than to see what’s offered by the glass.  This can provide big savings over bottle purchases because restaurants buy these wines in large quantity and (hopefully) pass the savings along.  There are five 5-ounce pours of wine in a bottle- do the math when considering your options.

4. Take Flight

Some restaurants offer up tasting flights where you can try several smaller pours for a reasonable price.  This provides a good way to compare wine styles in a category side by side.  Legal Sea Foods does a good job with this.  For slightly more than the cost of a single glass you can try several wines and learn from tasting notes along the way.

5. Expensive Doesn't Necessarily Mean Better

There is significant debate in the wine community whether price correlates with quality.  But with so much competition in the market (and many high-end labels producing lower cost bottles with just as much clout) you can find some pretty good wines for a lot less money.  Go for the style of wine you're in the mood for, match the weight of the food to the wine you're selecting, and when in doubt ask for help narrowing down your selection.

Dana Livingston is a writer for a culinary arts website where you can browse schools and the latest trends in the culinary arena.

Interested in writing a guest post for the site?  Drop me an E-mail with a proposed title and I'll get right back to you letting you know if it's a good fit.

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