Going out on a budget can be hard. You want to get the best wine for your money, but you also don’t have a lot of money. As you peruse the wine list trying to figure out what to do, a little voice in your head echoes something you’ve heard repeated time and time again: Get the second-cheapest bottle!
Don’t listen to that voice. The second-cheapest bottle theory is a lie at the majority of restaurants.
It’s easy to understand why people order the second-cheapest bottle from the wine list. No one wants to look cheap by ordering the first-cheapest wine, and it’s usually not worth drinking anyway. But the second-cheapest can have even more pitfalls.
First off, no one else at the table is fooled by someone who orders the second cheapest. Unless the person ordering knows something about the wine and got it for a reason, the order still looks cheap. It’s also well known enough as a “life hack” that the other guests at the table understand someone who orders the second-cheapest bottle just has no idea about what he’s ordering and doesn’t want to look cheap.
Second: Restaurant owners are fully aware of the type of people who order the second-cheapest bottle. No one is fooling the business that makes its money through markups and supply and demand.
Of course, if you care more about the number after the dollar sign than the value of a bottle of wine, then you do you.
It’s not a hard and fast rule. Restaurants with knowledgable sommeliers who actually want people to enjoy the wine they order won’t try to capitalize on misconceptions. Good sommeliers will drop the price of a less familiar wine like a Xinomavro to encourage people to try it. In this case, it’s best to just ask the sommelier what’s best, though. It’s much easier for a sommelier to find a wine you’ll like at a price you can handle.
Still think you should stick with the second-cheapest wine? It’s 2016. Use some technology and test it out yourself. Check out a wine list and then pull up that wine on wine-searcher.com.
Or just trust us, save some time and enjoy your wine.