7 Tips for Finding Restaurant Wine Value

We asked an expert to share his best tips for ordering wine at dinner.

By Meaghan Cameron from Reader's Digest

     

    On a tree-filled road in bucolic Chappaqua, New York resides a white mansion housing a goldmine of wine. With 7,000 selections and more than 70,000 bottles, Glenn Vogt, partner and wine director of the award-winning Crabtree’s Kittle House has his work cut out for him when suggesting wines for diners. Here are 7 great tips for ordering well.

  • 1.

    Remember that the quality of wine depends predominately on the commitment of the restaurant to providing good wine.

    “Value doesn’t mean cheap or inexpensive. It’s a relative term that means what you are getting is worth the money you are paying,” says Vogt. “If a wine isn’t any good to begin with then there is no price that could make it a good value.”

    How can you gauge a restaurant’s commitment?

    For starters, look for experienced servers who are knowledgeable about the food and wine

    Examine the glassware. Good quality glasses appropriate for the wine represent a care for serving a good wine.

    Pay attention to how a restaurant stores its wine. Ask for a tour of the wine cellar. In most cases, your wish will be granted.

  • Tips for Ordering Wine in a Restaurant©2009 Jupiterimages Coporation

  • 2.

    Wines by the glass can be a good value, depending on the restaurant.

    The way a wine by the glass program works is through a quantity discount program offered by the wine distributor to the restaurant, says Vogt. For example, a bottle of wine costs $10 if you buy 1 case for $120. The distributor will offer an incentive to the buyer to purchase additional wine by discounting the price on certain quantity levels. If a restaurant, or wine store, is unable to take advantage of the quantity discount because of their size or financial situation, they will most likely charge more. Remember this when ordering by the glass.

  • 3.

    The restaurant itself is part of the value.

    If you are at The Four Seasons, where operating costs are extremely high, you may be charged $20 for that same glass of wine you get for $12 at a smaller restaurant. But, says Vogt, “the china is beautiful, the stemware is perfect, the linen is pressed, the servers are in suits and ties, there’s a Picasso on the wall, the food is delicious and the dining experience is magical. The wine is a relative value.”

  • 4.

    Choose a higher-priced wine for better value.

    As the cost of the bottle increases, the markup decreases.

  • 5.

    Try Spain!

    Spain is a country steeped in winemaking history. Talented winemakers are traveling to the region, identifying old vines and working the vineyards to make them healthy and vibrant, Vogt says. As a result, they’re producing delicious wine at reasonable prices. It’s also worth trying lesser-known regions of France and Italy.

    3 affordable Spanish wines to try:

    Monastrell, (known as Mourvedre in France)
    Garnacha (known as Grenache in France)
    Tempranillo (the great red grape of Spain)

  • 6.

    Do not feel bad about being frugal.

    Vogt’s most memorable customer was a man who refused to spend more than $30 on a bottle of wine in the early ’90′s. Vogt saw it as a challenge to find something fantastic for him to try each time he came in.

  • 7.

    One easy tip: If it comes with a twist off cap, it's meant to be drunk now!

  • Curious about what Glenn Vogt orders in a restaurant? Check out this Over a Barrel blog post.