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If you’re going out for a nice meal this Valentine’s Day, and expect to drink wine, these five tips could help you save money. And embarrassment.


1) Go for the unfamiliar. Not Chardonnay, not Cabernet Sauvignon. Those have been marked up more because more people order them. Order the Albarino, the Tempranillo, the Barbera, or the hard-to-pronounce Greek wine. It’ll be a better value.

2) Don’t order the second cheapest bottle. Obviously you’re avoiding the bottom-of-the-list option. The wine director knows this. And he’s marked it up accordingly. The least expensive bottle may actually be a better choice. If the eatery is any good, you’re safe because what self-respecting restaurant would put a bottle on a wine list that it didn’t endorse?

3) Decide what you want to eat first. This will inform your decision regarding pairings and it helps the sommelier narrow down the choices (see next tip).

4) Ask for assistance. Not even the geekiest wine lover knows the wine list as well as the sommeliers or wine directors at the restaurants you’re visiting. They know what’s drinking well in their cellars. And they’re delighted to share their thoughts, and perhaps even some impressive unlisted options if you inquire.

5) Point to a bottle in the price range that interests you, even if it’s the least expensive one, and explain that you are looking for something like that. They’ll get the message.

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