Ask a Sommelier: How Do You Find the Best Value on a Wine List?

Have an Open Mind, Come Bearing Adjectives

"I think the best values are found in the obscure regions and countries with less notoriety. Having an open mind will help you find some fun wines outside your typical Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. I don’t really buy into the second-cheapest bottle theory, as every restaurant’s mark-up strategy is different. Your best bet is to ask the sommelier or waiter what they’re excited about and use that information to help you make your own decision. Deciding how much money you’re comfortable spending on wine before your meal and relaying that to the sommelier can help narrow down your selections without the awkward wine budget two-step. Using some adjectives to describe the style of wine you’re looking for can help the sommelier find you something that might be similar to what you typically drink but from a country, region or grape that will provide more value."—Chad Zeigler, RN74 (San Francisco)


It can be intimidating to stare down a restaurant wine list, especially if the prices are mostly out of your range. But you want to drink something tasty—what should you look for in order to get a good deal? Is it smart to order the cheapest bottle on the list? The second-cheapest bottle? Is there something else we should be looking for to find the best wine for the money? We asked 16 top sommeliers for their advice.Check out the slideshow for their tips »