Few things fuck up wine like money. I’m not saying that you should throw your budget out the window when you go to order a bottle, but the degree to which people will fret about a few bucks never ceases to amaze me. Nowhere is that more evident than the endless stream of advice telling you to order the “X cheapest” wine on a list, where “X” stands for “Xtremely bad suggestion.” Wanna know how to actually get value when you dine out? Read on.
Know Your Price, And Tell Someone
I can do a lot of wonderful things, but I can’t read your mind. In the modern dining environment, it’s a fool’s errand to guess whether a guest is out for a rare date night and has a budget or is a tech billionaire. You, on the other hand, know your limits, and feel free to state them to the somm or server from the get-go. We won’t waste your time with pricey suggestions, and you won’t feel bad for ignoring them.
Don’t Be Picky
Look, certain grapes and regions will generally cost more. Wanna know why Pinot Noir is rarely cheap? Because it’s a finicky grape to grow, and because it’s a grape that everyone knows. As such winemakers both need to charge more for it, and also know they can.
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Cabernet Sauvignon might be more vigorous, but often consumers prefer it aged in new oak barrels, which are expensive. Thus, the resulting wine is too. It’s fine to use those grapes as reference points, but if you insist on them, you’re likely to pay more money for less interesting wine, when you could be getting really delicious Beaujolais, Blaufranckisch, or Rioja for less money.
Avoid Glass Pours
I’ve talked about this before, but you’ll get soaked more on glass pours than on anything else on the list. A bottle of the glass pour Chardonnay might sell for the same price as another bottle on the list, even though the restaurant likely paid $5-10 more dollars for the latter bottle.
Give Yourself Credit
Look, we’re not all wine experts, but the constant stream of articles claiming that no one can tell the difference between $5 and $500 wine are bullshit. If you want to start understanding what makes great wine great, consider a few qualities that anyone can discern: the texture of the wine, the complexity (or how many different flavors you taste), and the length of the finish (how long after swallowing you still taste the wine).
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If you’re just looking for something to lubricate your meal, then sure, order whatever bottle fits your budget, but if you’re looking to have an actual wine experience, then start trusting yourself.
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