Restaurant wines are so expensive. Can I haggle them down?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

My wife brought up a good point to me. Knowing that many restaurants have unfriendly wine lists in regard to mark-ups and price, do you think one can possibly negotiate for a better price at the restaurant? It might make restaurant owners think more about being wine-friendly. What do you think?

—Chad, Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Dear Chad,

Even if haggling over prices before ordering a bottle of wine sounded appealing to me—and it doesn’t—I don’t think that’s the way to go. You shouldn’t try to negotiate the price of a wine in a restaurant any more than you should negotiate the cost of the steak you order, or how much the calamari appetizer is. That’s why there’s a menu and a wine list with prices on them—you can choose what to order (or not) depending on what you can afford and what sounds good to you.

That said, I share your frustration over the markups in some restaurants. My favorite places to eat offer plenty of choices in an affordable price range, or lots of selections of half-bottles or by-the-glass choices. Since you’re in Florida, you live in a state where it’s legal to bring your own bottle of wine if that’s in line with the restaurant’s policies. (Here’s a primer on BYO wine etiquette.)

While procuring, storing, cataloging and serving wine comes with its costs, if a restaurant doesn’t make it easy for me to pay for a glass of wine with my dinner, I file it under “Restaurants I Don’t Patronize.” You don’t have to raise a stink with your server (who probably had little or nothing to do with the cost of the wine in the first place), you can simply choose to eat at places that give you options that are more in line with your preferences. You can find plenty of restaurants with award-winning wine lists in our Restaurant Search.

—Dr. Vinny

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