Restauranteurs bank on your insecurity when it comes to navigating a wine list. Most amateurs play it safe by choosing the second cheapest wine on the list. That’s where many venues put their “high profit” bottles—the shabby stuff they want to get rid of. House wines are also never a good choice, as they’re purchased for their price and not their value or taste. Avoid these money traps by figuring out the average bottle price on the list—then stay near the median price for the best bang for your buck.
Everyone knows the old saw about pairing red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. But what about seafood and pasta entrees? As a rule, order reds with heavier meals (braised chicken, roasted turkey) and whites with lighter fare (poached salmon, antipasto). Beware: Neither goes with spicy cuisine, since it ruins the taste. If your meal will have some kick—think chili rubs and curries—order a sweeter wine like a Riesling to tame the spiciness of the food.