Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Best Wine Buying Tip You'll Ever Read

Here's the best and littlest-known wine trick out there.

Fancy, expensive restaurants do not, for the most part, serve fancy, expensive wine. Here's why: the $100 (retail) bottles which might be expected to accompany $200 dinners must be healthily marked up, and few diners will lay out  hundreds for a bottle of vino. You'll find such bottles lurking on some wine lists, but they are by no means the bulk of what's actually served.

Because of this conundrum, sommeliers at high-end restaurants must make it their stressful job to suss out $20-40 retail bottles which deserve to be served with top-quality food...and which will strike diners as being well worth a 200%-300% marked-up price. A sticky wicket!

I'm fanatical about discovering great unsung foods and drinks myself. But these legions of sommeliers - competing with each other to find fantastic values, all under flop-sweat pressure to pull off nonstop wine buying miracles or else lose their jobs - make me lazy. Like them, I'm interested in great $20 bottles. We share that goal, and so I often draft along behind their efforts. They are my chowhoundish stringers, fervidly foraging under pain of (career) death. Nice!

So here's what you do. Go to the web site of two or three expensive restaurants you trust and admire. Crib from the wine list. Check retail prices. Rub hands in glee. And go pick up a few bottles.

Or, better yet, go to the restaurant, enjoy a meal, and ask for sample splashes of a few wines at the bar before seating. This instant free wine tasting might pay for the entire meal if you discover a great budget wine or two.

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