Grape Tips Tuesday: What Should I Look For On A Restaurant Wine List?

What Should I Be Looking For On A Restaurant Wine List?This Week In Wine 101: What Should I Look For On A Restaurant Wine List?

We’ve all been there, dining at a nice restaurant with family, friends or a special someone from the wait staff hands you the wine list and the pressure of selecting a good wine is on. For those of us who aren’t familiar with every region, its varietals, or top producers it can be more than a little daunting. The truth is, everyone at one point or another feels either inundated or uncertain by which wine to select for dinner at a restaurant. To help you prepare for your next restaurant experience, we’ve listed some tips that may help change those inhibitions you felt prior to reading this article. Plus, we’ve listed some brand names for you to look out for!

There are a couple of things you can do to help make your dining experience both satisfying and memorable. You can start by checking out the restaurant’s wine list online. This gives you a better idea of what your options are, displays the prices, and in case you aren’t familiar with the wines a restaurant offers you can research them beforehand and find out which ones have the best reviews so you’re well prepared.

Search for the brands or varietals you’re familiar with and like. The cost of a bottle can also influence your decision and if you’re looking to keep things on the “DL” (which most people are) pointing out the price on the wine list can help give the wait staff or sommelier a better idea of what your price range is. If however, you do not have the time to look over a restaurant’s wine list online or are not at all familiar with any of the wines they offer, ask to speak with the Sommelier on staff.

A sommelier is usually the one responsible for creating the wine list, and knows which wines pair well with certain dishes on their menu. A great sommelier will listen to which varietals you like and aim to find a wine that you and your guests will enjoy, as well as complement your meal, but most importantly find a wine within the price range you are looking for. Beware of sommeliers that try and up-sale you on a wine, it is one thing if you communicate that you’re flexible when it comes to cost, it’s another to impose a wine that is far from the amount you’re looking to spend. In any case, if you experience such a scenario don’t be shy to reaffirm the amount you’d like to spend and stand your ground.


Here are some vineyard & winery names you should look for:

A to Z Wireworks – Alexia – Antica – Ashbourne – Astrolabe

B. R. Cohn Winery – Bedrock – Benito Santos – Benziger – Beringer – Bodegas Hidalgo Gitana – Boutari – Buitenverwachting – Byron

C. Donatello – Castello Banfi – Caymus – Château Canon-La Gaffelière – Chateau Dereszla – Chateau du Retour – Chateau Ste. Michelle – Concha y Toro – Conundrum – Copain – COS

Domaine de l’A – Domaine de Pallus – Domaine Serene – Domäne Wachau

Epoch – Fail – Flora Springs – Flowers – FOREFRONT – Frisk

G.D. Vajra – Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio – GRANS-FASSIAN

Hamilton Russell – Hanna – Hanzell – Hewitt – Honig – Inception

J. J. Vincent & Fils – Joel Gott – Joh. Jos. Prime – Jordan Winery – Joseph Phelps Vineyard

Kongsgaard – L’Ecole No. 41 – La Rioja – Le Macchiole – Lewis

M. Lapierre – Maison Roche De Bellene – Mararico – Marcassin – Merryvale Juliana Vineyards – Moscofilero Domaine Scours Vineyards

Neal Family Vineyards – Olivier Ravoire

Patz & Hall – Penfolds – Poggeranno – Produttori del Barbaresco – Provenance Vineyards – Pruneto

Querciabella – Quintessa – R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia – Reynvaan – Robert Mondavi Winery – Root: 1, Chile 2012

Schmelz – Shaker – Stag’s Leap – Starten Lummis – TERRANOBLE – Trefethen – Turley

V No. – Vavasour – William Hill – Wynns Coonawarra Estate – Yalumba Christobel’s

So, the next time you are at a restaurant and can’t figure out which wine to enjoy with your meal, visit to see what names you should look for. An additional option would be to check out the restaurant’s wine list before hand, so you have a better idea of what you’d like to order. Another alternative is asking the sommelier to make a suggestion that you and your guests can all enjoy. Remember to communicate the types of varietals you like or love and how much you are willing to spend. We hope you found this article helpful.


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