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10 Things You Don’t Know About… Finding the Best Inexpensive Wine at a Restaurant

So you’re sitting at the fancy restaurant, and the waiter hands you the wine menu.  If you’re like most people, you flip to the back page where the cheap stuff is, scan the page for the least expensive per-glass line, and order whatever it may be.

Yes, restaurants make a ton of money selling customers a bottle of wine at an incredibly high markup.  The same bottle that can run $100 or more in the restaurant may only cost you $20 at the local wine shop…assuming the local wine shop even carries that label or vintage.  

So how do you know which wine is a good value when you’re looking at the menu?

The Wall Street Journal has written a handy guide to help you SAVE MONEY WHEN BUYING WINE AT A RESTAURANT.

  1. Skip wine by the glass. Restaurateurs like to make enough on a single glass to pay for a whole bottle.
  2. Check the vintage closely. Most wines are meant to be drunk young and fresh – and many restaurants, especially informal restaurants, don’t keep their wines in perfect conditions.
  3. Bypass the second-cheapest wine on the list. The least expensive is actually a pretty good deal at many places.
  4. Scope out the owner’s passion for value.
  5. Avoid the Chardonnay tax. The Chardonnays on so many lists are grossly overpriced compared to other wines.
  6. Never order [the same wine you drink at home]. If you stay within your comfort zone, ordering only wines you already know, you will be punished for it, price-wise.  Remember: There is value in tasting something new.
  7. Don’t ignore house wines, by the bottle or in carafes. More often than not, we have found these lusty and fun.
  8. Look for half-price deals. This trend is sweeping the nation. Look around and you are likely to find a deal like that in your neighborhood.
  9. BYOB. Check around for restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine.
  10. Have it your way. No wine, at any price, is a good value if you don’t enjoy it.