Buying Guide: 5 Tips for Frugal Drinkers

Keep this advice in mind whenever you’re contemplating ordering the least expensive wine on a restaurant’s list.
By Lettie Teague

1. If the list is full of trophy wines, beware.
A wine director who is focused on cult Cabs and brand-name Bordeaux may be so fixated on the top of the list that he or she will give the bargain bottles short shrift.

2. Don’t be scared of obscure wines.
For some reason, these often dominate the bottom of high-end lists. But do ask the sommelier to tell you about the wine before you order it. (Note: This advice does not apply to South African Pinotage, which I always avoid.)

3. Look for young white wines from particular regions.
Italy, Spain and France offer great values in young whites, especially from little-known areas like the Marches region (Italy), Galicia (Spain) and Bergerac (France).

4. Ask about the importer.
Before buying an unfamiliar wine from the bottom of a list, ask the sommelier to tell you who the importer is; a few specialize in finding good, inexpensive wines. Some names to look for are Hand Picked Selections, Fine Estates from Spain, European Cellars, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and Leonardo LoCascio Selections.

5. Don’t order the cheapest wine on any list in Miami’s South Beach district.
Or at least, don’t expect it to be a particular bargain.