I love sitting down in a restaurant and being handed a lovely leather bound folder full of interesting wines to choose from (my wife gets very bored!), but I also know restaurant lists can be confusing, pricey and a little daunting. Well, it's time I tried to de-mystify the experience!
So here’s how to get the best out of a restaurant's list
Wine in restaurants can be very expensive (more of which later on), so unless you have a mega budget it can be tricky to pick a good value wine. There are a few simple rules, however.
House wine - try before you buy! House wine in restaurants can be a really good buy, but can also be a complete rip-off. It all depends upon how the establishment decides to price it. So ask to sample a bit before you order - most places will have a bottle open and should be happy to give you a small taste. This goes for any wine being served by the glass, but avoid tasting them all - the waiter will think you're really taking the mick!
Never buy the second cheapest wine on the list.' Not always the case, but many restaurants take advantage of the fact that people don't want to be seen ordering the house wine, so go for the next one up.
Avoid the big names. Wines such as Chablis, Pinot Grigio and Kiwi Sauvignon are sold in huge amounts in restaurants because people feel comfortable ordering them. As a result, there's a huge demand and the quality and value of the wines often doesn't come up to scratch
Look for the hidden gems. The best value wines on restaurant lists are almost always lesser-known wines from unfashionable areas of the wine world. For whites, try unusual Italians like Falanghina, Alsatian and German bottles or grapes from the new world you've never heard of This may feel like a lottery if you've never tried the wines before, but is almost always rewarded. It's often worth checking out vintages of generic wines too. I recently had a fantastic bottle of Bourgogne Rouge in a restaurant for less than 20. I spotted that the vintage was 2002 and thought it worth a go (it's unusual for restaurants to have old wines at this level) with ample reward!
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