Belinda Chang, sommelier
The first thing is that value doesn’t necessarily mean the lowest price. Most places put the highest markups on the cheapest wines, while there can be pretty incredible value at the high end. A lot of somms want to open these wines and try them, so they barely mark them up at all.
I know a lot of people check out food menus before visiting a restaurant, but look at the wine list, too. Not only can you check the markups, you can see what regions the wine buyer is excited about, and that’s always the best place to start.
Wine is like real estate in a way. Don’t just look at the Gold Coast brownstone wines, but check out other neighborhoods. Or if you are interested in a prestige cuvée, see if the house has a second or third label, which is often a fraction of the price. Sometimes I like the fourth labels better than the OGs.
The main thing is this: Talk to whoever is in charge of putting the list together and tell her you’re looking for the best deal. We want to have a chance to share our insider secrets. We want you to explore. – As told to John Kessler