Ever feel like you’re just playing the wine lottery when you look at a wine list and have no clue which wine to pick? Choosing a wine from a wine list can be intimidating! Even if you’ve never heard of any of the wines on a menu, you can still select a great wine and not spend a fortune.
Does the right choice come down to price?
Yes and no.
You can get a great bottle of wine that doesn’t cost a fortune – and if the restaurant has a great wine program, you can be confident that choosing a bottle that fits your taste and price range will be a wine that you’ll enjoy.
Restaurants that have good wine programs are typically not cheap restaurants… they tend to be more fine dining and have a wine list to match their cuisine. So, those restaurants will have a wide range of prices on their wine list, but that doesn’t mean the lower priced bottles are not great wines — in fact, most likely, the lower priced wines are great wines because they have someone who has put a lot of thought into the selection.
On the flip side, if the restaurant has a short wine list, they probably haven’t put a lot of research into the wines and they may not be fabulous picks.
Tips to pick a wine at a restaurant
- Red or white? Deciding on red or white is the simplest way to narrow down your selection.
- Ask your server his/her opinion. Wait staff is often trained on the wine list, and can ask you a few questions to lead you to the right selection. They should give you a few options with different price points so you can make your final choice.
- If you’re really into wine, check out the wine list and read some reviews about a few of the wines before you dine.
- Wine Spectator publishes an annual list of restaurants that have an outstanding wine list, which is a good issue to keep on hand as you’re adding new restaurants to your “date night” list.
- If the restaurant has a great wine list, a lower priced or mid level wine will most likely be a great wine because they have put a lot of effort into putting their wine list together.
- If your choices are “house red” and “house white”, opt for beer instead 🙂 If a restaurant has a very short wine list, they have not put much thought or research into their wine list.
- Wines by the glass are typically priced more per glass than purchasing the whole bottle. Consider buying a bottle instead. In some states, like South Carolina, you’re allowed to cork an open bottle to take home. So, you can get a nice bottle at dinner and enjoy a few glasses at dinner and the rest at home later.