Friday, August 15, 2008

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

The Apostle Paul told his young charge Timothy to "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." (I Timothy 5:23)

Then there is the French Paradox that suggests the diet of residents of southern France which would normally produce high cholesterol in the population is offset by the frequent consumption of red wine.

So how do you follow the Bible and control cholesterol without blowing the budget in a fine restaurant?

A meal for two in a nice restaurant can easily top $100. Add in a bottle of wine and watch the tab double.

So how do you find good value in a restaurant wine list?

According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the better values lie in the more expensive wines.

The least expensive wines may be 2 - 3 times the wholesale price, while the mid to higher priced wines generally have a lower mark up.

Do your research before going to the restaurant. Some restaurants will fax their wine list on request. But you don't have to do all your research in advance.

It is possible to do some surreptitious research even at the restaurant table. Derek Benham, the owner of several California wineries, including Mark West and Avalon, suggests using an iPhone or BlackBerry to pull up a Web site like when studying a wine list. Industry insiders routinely use that site to find retail prices. "It's a two-second transaction that doesn't spoil your dinner or your date," he says.

How romantic is that?

For the less-technologically inclined, there's a simpler rule of thumb: Go for lesser-known regions and varietals. Sommeliers suggest thinking of Grüner Veltliner as an inexpensive alternative to Chardonnay. They also say Pinot Noir from Australia, Malbec from Argentina and Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, which have gained ground in the wine market in recent years, are still good values.

Much better.

And how about just a glass?

Typically, the first glass of wine sold pays for the cost of the bottle to the restaurant. "Ninety-nine out of 100 times, the wine-by-the-glass program is going to be priced the most aggressively,"

Usually the wines by the glass are the lower priced wines and who knows how long the bottle has been open?

So don't take any chances. Get the bottle.
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