It’s a great time to be a wine explorer: there are more styles to try than we know what to do with, wine snobbery is fading, and, best of all, wine bars are popping up left and right. Wine bars are perfect for getting yourself out of your drinking comfort zone and trying a large variety of options in one night. However, as is the case with any great trend, knockoffs are bound to occur. The next time you decide to spend your evening throwing down dollars at a wine bar, make sure you’re drinking at a place that’s really worth it.
Dealbreaker #1: Gratuitous Portions
While we’re all for a good deal, if the food and drink in front of you looks like you supersized it, be wary. Your wine glasses shouldn’t resemble goblets, and they also shouldn’t be filled to the brim with wine. A large serving of wine might seem like a sweet deal, but if your wine is over-poured, you won’t be able to swirl it or smell it properly. Similarly, if your charcuterie plate has mile-high stacks of meat and cheese, there’s a good chance the quality of what you’re eating is mediocre. The fact is, good meat and cheese is pricey, so if your plate bears a striking resemblance to Mom’s cold cut platter, you’re eating food you could have picked up at a bodega – although there’s a time and place for that.
Dealbreaker #2: You Can’t Taste The Wine Before You Buy It
You might think that the more upscale the wine bar, the less inclined it would be to let you taste the wine – not so. A good wine bar is confident in its ability to sell you wine, and will happily let you try as many kinds as your alcoholic heart desires. While you shouldn’t be a jerk about it – like trying seven Moscatos if you know you’re going to just order a Cabernet – wine bars are all about exploration, and you should feel comfortable trying more than one thing. Which brings us to our next point…
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Dealbreaker #3: There’s No By-The-Glass Program
We’ve established before that by-the-glass programs are perfect for the wino who wants to try multiple vinos in one night. In fact, unless you plan on drinking four glasses of the same wine, you’re best off ordering wine by the glass. A good wine bar should have an exceptional by-the-glass program that allows you to sip both $5 and $25 glasses. You should even be able to sample wines that aren’t traditionally served by-the-glass, like Barolo and Burgundy. Remember, this isn’t just a bar, it’s a place that claims to specialize in wine, so your options should be far more vast than they would be at any old restaurant.
Dealbreaker #4: There Are A Bunch Of Open Bottles On The Bar
A good wine bar has a top notch storage system. If you see a bunch of bottles chilling out on the bar, that means the wine bar has made no effort to preserve the wine. Once a bottle of wine is opened, it should either be stored in a cooler, moved to a smaller container, or have the oxygen pumped out of it. Unless the wine bar is making vinegar, open wine bottles – even if they’re corked – should not be out in the open for long periods of time.
Dealbreaker #5: The White Wine Is Ice Cold
Chilled white wine is delicious – we even recommend chilling reds. However, like over-pouring your wine, over-chilling your wine will sap out flavors and aromas. Chances are if your wine is at a sub-zero temperature, it’s a ploy to make you feel refreshed and stop thinking about how the wine could be of lesser quality. Don’t be susceptible to these mind games!
Dealbreaker #6: Their Number One Selling Point Is Bachelorette Party Deals
While we can’t definitively say why this is an indicator of a bad wine bar, to paraphrase a famous saying, we know it when we see it. Trust us, if you see bachelorette deals – or even bridal and baby showers – being advertised, leave the bar. The same goes for chocolate lava cake appearing on the dessert list. Just walk away.