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Joe Bastianich, restaurateur and host of CNBC's Restaurant Startup, shares some advice on how to order wine at a restaurant.
Wine Question #1: When you're choosing a bottle, how can you indicate your price range without letting everyone at your table know how much you want to spend?
Wine Tip #1: If you're holding the wine list, a good sommelier will know to come to your side of the table. To discretely letting the sommelier know what you are comfortable spending, point to a price on the list to indicate your range.
Wine Question #2: When should you order by the glass versus by the bottle?
Wine Tip #2: If you party is going to order at least three glasses, you will get more wine for your money if you can all agree to just order a bottle. Your money will buy a better wine and you'll get a better value for your money.
Wine Question #3: How can you choose a good wine on the by-the-glass list?
Wine Tip #3: Skip the obvious! Look for lesser known indigenous varietals. The restaurant's wine buyer likely put it on the list for a reason (because it's good!) among all the more recognizable varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Many people are "lazy drinkers" and they will go for the obvious Chardonnay or Merlot, but these are likely to be the most marked up and lowest quality wines on the list, whereas the lesser known, indigenous wines are often good wines at a good value.
Wine Question #4: Is it okay to order the "house wine"?
Wine Tip #4: Generally speaking, the "house wine" is really the path of least resistance. It's bought in bulk and drunk by people who generally don't care about what they are drinking. Ask questions and educate yourself. If you are going to ask your server about a particular dish you might order, why not take the time to do the same about wine?
Wine Question #5: If you ordered a glass of wine or a bottle of wine is it okay to try it and send them back?
Wine Tip #5: If it is defective, then of course. But if you just don't like it...that doesn't really have an easy short answer. It becomes complicated.
Wine Question #6: Buying a bottle with a screw cap versus one with a cork—what, if anything, is the difference?
Wine Tip #6: For ready-to-drink wines, a screw cap is considered fine these days. In the past, screw caps used to be indicative of cheap poor quality wines, but this is no longer the case. Many producers use them for environmental reasons as well. At home, you can store a screw cap wine the same way you'd store a cork wine.