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How to Order Wine in a Restaurant

As the Wall Street Journal points out in this article, wine pricing in restaurants is a complicated business. You may find the same bottle at three different eateries marked at three wildly different prices. Also, the markup may not be consistent. Sometimes, pricier wines may have less of a markup.

So how does the wine lover find the best deal in a restaurant? There are six good tips here, courtesy of A Food and Wine Blog, including:

3. Order from the middle of the wine list. Price wise, you’re getting your best
value in the middle of the list. There are cases where wines at either end of
the spectrum offer outstanding bang for the buck, but you’re also more likely to
get a bad wine or something that’s a major let down (higher end of the

And this:

5. Don’t buy wine. I’m serious here. If the wine markups are ridiculous
($15 bottle retail is $65), enjoy a glass of water, a beer, or a cheap wine
by the glass. Mention to the manager on the way out that the markup is
insane and despite having good food and service, you won’t be back because
of the outrageous wine pricing! If enough people speak up and let
restaurants know that a 3-4 X markup will not be tolerated, you can bet that
most places would lower prices rather than lose business.

The WSJ article suggests using mobile technology to access the true price of the
wines on the list to get an idea of the markup. This might be fun, but it seems
a bit obsessive. The markup is there for a reason: you’re paying for the
location and the service. If you’re eating in a beautiful restaurant with
impeccable wait staff, the extra cash is funding this luxury.

I took a cooking course a while back and the chef taught us how to make “The $7 Cucumber Salad,” which was a big hit at a fancy restaurant where he worked as the head chef. The $7 salad consisted of peeled, sliced cucumbers, sea salt, and that's it. That, my quaffing friends, is a big markup. Next time you feel cheated by a 300 percent premium on that bottle of wine you order in a restaurant, remember that the markup is likely even higher for people chugging beer and guzzling mixed drinks – often up to 500 percent above cost. Markups can be tough to swallow, but sometimes it’s just better to sit back, relax, and enjoy the wine, your company and the surroundings. You’re paying for it – you might as well soak it in.


“How to Order Wine in a Restaurant”