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Just Order the Cheapest Wine at Dinner

This Valentine’s Day, you may have arranged a fancy meal for your loved one. You’ve budgeted for everything: a few appetizers, entreés and a stealthily split dessert. When you get to the restaurant, the lighting is just right, the music is soothing and you’re feeling pretty good about where the night may lead. And then the waiter brings you the wine menu.

If you’re waffling between the least expensive options (in other words, you, like me, don’t know much about wine, except that you like it), just order the cheapest option. Restaurants mark up the second least expensive, because they know that you will not want to appear too cheap in front of your date, but that you don’t want to overspend on drinks, especially if the restaurant is pricier than what you usually go for.

A glass of wine will run at least $8 at dinner—meanwhile, there are many good options for under $15 for an entire bottle. It’s true that drinks are where many restaurants make up some money, but if you are already paying for a nice meal out, there’s no need to pick the glass that’s $1 or $2 pricier, especially when you can’t taste the difference. If the restaurant has a good sommelier, the cheapest option will still be tasty.

There are, of course, exceptions to be made: You like Chardonnay, and the cheapest option is a Pinot Gris; you are a bit of a connoisseur and are willing to shell out for a good bottle, or wine is your date’s thing and you want to impress them; you are very rich and it just doesn’t matter how much you spend on wine; you dine at the Cheesecake Factory where the cheapest wine is the restaurant’s own reserve blend, which is not good (trust me); etc.

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This advice is strictly for people who enjoy wine but feel guilty ordering the cheapest glass because they are worried it will make them look unsophisticated or unappreciative. It’s ok. There’s enough undo pressure on Valentine’s Day without excessive worrying over the cost of your imbibing.

Cheers.

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