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6 Tips for Choosing the Right Wine at a Restaurant

Our dedicated staff can always recommend the best wines for your meal, but you can learn how below:

1. Start Light

Have you ever kicked a meal off with a bold glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, only to find that you’ve all but  perhaps even sparkling.

completely ruined your appetite? It’s a common mistake made by those who believe they truly only enjoy drinking rich red wines, and one that is best dealt with before the meal begins. Ordering a heavy glass of wine won’t do anything but make the meal hard to get through, and since most chefs serve light courses at the beginning of the meal, you’ll be dealing with a wine and food pairing that simply doesn’t work. In the vast majority of scenarios, the best option when choosing wines to start a meal off with is to stick with something light, crisp and refreshing —

2. Avoid “By the Glass” Wines if Possible

There’s certainly a convenience factor that comes along with being able to order a glass of wine while dining out as opposed to purchasing an entire bottle. This is especially true for those who dine alone often, in which case ordering an entire bottle would typically be considered excessive. If you’re accompanied by dining partners, however, you may want to consider purchasing a bottle vs. a “by the glass” option — especially if you’re all interested in drinking similar wines. You’ll not only save quite a bit of money (price points for wines by the glass tend to be high), but you’ll also guarantee yourself a better wine, as most offerings available by the glass tend to be less than stellar.

3. Follow Tasting Notes

For those who aren’t entirely familiar with the wine world, deciphering which glass to order from a list of mysterious-sounding grape names can be an anxiety-producing exercise. You don’t have to succumb to the confusion often associated with grape names, however, as most modern wine lists will feature tasting notes for each offering. By using these as guidelines for what you currently feel in the mood to drink, you’ll be far less likely to order something you’re not going to enjoy than if you were to rely on chance. If there are no tasting notes listed on the menu, you’re not quite out of luck. Ask your server to explain the nuances of each wine you’re interested in, and don’t hesitate to talk about which dishes they’ll pair best with.

4. Let Your Food Be Your Guide

When most people prepare to order a glass of wine, they look over the list and choose what sounds most appealing to them as a drink in that particular moment. What often goes overlooked, however, is that the wine you order alongside a meal must complement the food properly. If the pairing doesn’t work, both the wine and the food being eaten will suffer as a result. Don’t order the Vinho Verde, for example, if you’re planning on sinking your teeth into a rich, unctuous lamb shank. Ideally, choose wines that are versatile to stand up to multiple different courses so that you don’t have to order different varietals throughout the meal.

5. Be Aware of Markups

Have you ever been tempted to order the most expensive bottle of wine on the list? If so, you’re not alone. Ordering based solely upon price point is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make, however, especially considering the fact that markups on bottles at restaurants can be somewhere along the lines of 300%. More often than not, you can expect to encounter a similar range of quality in mid-priced bottles as you’ll find in the highest-priced on the list — many people won’t even be able to tell the difference between a $40 bottle and a $200 bottle. Save your money and splurge at home!

6. Swallow Your Pride

Everyone wants to be able to navigate a wine list without help, but in the end, the most important thing to focus on is ordering the right glass or bottle. Sometimes, it’s easiest to enlist the help of a professional who can guide you through the ordering process, and if you’re lucky enough to have the chance to work with a sommelier, you should take advantage of the opportunity. Sommeliers are trained specifically to help diners choose the perfect wine for pairing with food, and in many restaurants, they’re the driving force behind the wines that have made the list in the first place. If you have a question and the only thing that’s holding you back from asking it is your pride, you’ll do best to swallow it and work with the somm to find the right wine for you.

The next time you sit down to order a glass or a bottle of wine, don’t let the list intimidate you. It can take experience to order from certain wine lists, but just remember that no list is too confusing to choose a great wine from. Order with confidence, and enjoy the meal.

More Than a Great Restaurant

Bistro 41 is more than a great restaurant, it’s a great experience! In 1996, this dining landmark was created in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers. We quickly became the standard for fine dining launching the epicurean force in Southwest Florida. Thanks to our loyal following, we’re better than ever and still striving to exceed expectations with consistent, culinary cuisine and accommodating professional service. So if you haven’t been to Bistro 41, you should give us a try, or if it’s been awhile we’d love to see you again!

We Asked, and You Spoke!

Read what our guests have said about us below!

This is our go-to place for good food and great service in Fort Myers. We have been here many times over the years and today was as good as always. The waitstaff is professional and friendly, kindly making suggestions on dining choices and we are always pleased.


We have gone to Bistro 41 for the past couple of years when we vacation here, but have recently relocated to the area. Once again we had a great meal, with great service! We enjoy eating out front, and call ahead to guarantee our seats, but it is well worth it. We will become regular visitors!


Asian Calamari

Have you tried our calamari for your appetizer yet? Enjoy crispy fried tender Calamari tossed with our house stir-fried vegetables in a sweet chili sauce, served in a wonton bowl.