David’s article as prepared for the Duluth News Tribune for the column which ran on 7/8/2015:
Ordering wine at a restaurant
I had the pleasure of joining friends for dinner at a restaurant that had a very large wine list. As you can imagine, most people hand the wine list to me and expect I’ll be able to choose the best wine at the very best price on the list.
While I’m not always able to make a choice that will perfectly match each diner’s meal, I can usually get pretty close. Here’s how I choose from a restaurant wine list.
Tip No. 1
If possible go out to dinner on half-priced wine nights. Most restaurants have a weekly night where full bottles are 50 percent off. The mark-up on wine is significant, so if you can buy a bottle for half the price, you most likely are paying only slightly more than retail.
Tip No. 2
Don’t even look at the wine list until you’ve heard what everyone at the table is ordering. Once you know what your companions select, make a democratic choice in wine color. For example, if three people are getting fish and one is ordering beef, then a white wine is the choice that would favor the most meals.
Tip No. 3
If you’re at a restaurant with a strong cultural theme such as Italian or French and you’re ordering food from that culture, choose wines from the same country. It doesn’t make sense to go to an Italian restaurant, order Italian-inspired food and get a shiraz from Australia. If you go to Outback Steakhouse, then the shiraz would be a great match. But if you go Italian try to find an Italian wine.
Set a wine budget and stick to it. If it’s already half-priced wine night, then you’re off to a great start in making a good choice. A bottle of wine for $20 on half-priced wine night — because normally they’d charge $40 — should taste divine. A $10 wine — normally $20 every other day of the week — should taste good. And if you’re thinking that ordering by the glass is the best option because everyone can get whatever they like, think again.
Often pours by the glass cost about $9. A bottle of wine contains five glasses of wine. That means if you’re a party of four and each get a glass for $9, that’s $36. Might as well get a bottle for $36 or less because in the bottle, you’ll get five glasses for the price of four.
Tip No. 5
When the server brings the wine, the person who ordered it is tasked with tasting and approving the bottle. This isn’t an opportunity to taste the wine and decide whether you like it. You’re simply checking to see if the wine is faulted or gone bad in some way.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy a nice meal with your friends.
David Devere is a certified specialist of wine. He teaches wine classes mainly in the Duluth, MN area. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.