Wine 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

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.

Slideshow: Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine Off a Wine List


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.)

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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).

Slideshow: Fantastic Value Wines


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.

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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 bargain.

Slideshow: 16 Bargain Wines


—Lettie Teague


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