Making cents in dinner with wines

The Tastings Room

The Tastings Room

Like most other fresh university graduates, my first year in the working world saw me nowhere near being financially robust. Going for a Valentine’s date often translates to wallet hemorrhage. Although many relationship ‘experts’ have purported that a good relationship is not how much you spend, the innate manly ego often spurs us to spend like tomorrow may never come. But having gone through such years, I am now more inclined towards maximising my budget on this occasion.

Every year on this commercialised day, I will be browsing dinner set menus that make both sense and cents. A typical dinner in a restaurant on this day tends to consist of set meals that come with wine options. This is good for those who tread on the safe side of food-wine pairing, but unfortunately, this often comes with a premium. I once spent S$200 (per person) on a dinner that included only two glasses of mid-range Australian wines. No doubt the restaurant – with its limited number of seats – provided a great sense of exclusivity in the romance department, but S$50 (about US$40) for two glasses of wine simply doesn’t resonate with the economist in me.

How to maximise your wine dollars
Subsequently, my days of restaurants exploration led me to Bring-Your-Own and Wine-by-the-Glass. A quick search on the internet yields a list of restaurants that permit your own wines. However the absence of  standard market practices can be confusing,  and potentially lead to post-dinner regret. Varying from a nominal fee per table for the corkage charge regardless of the number of bottles consumed, to an individual fee for each bottle consumed (plus a maximum number of bottles allowed), it’s a good idea to confirm with the restaurant manager before turning up. Personally I prefer the nominal fee approach that stays below S$25 as anything higher will be trimming away at my overall food budget. The competition from internet wine merchants have brought about significantly lower prices, a boon for wine drinkers. Assuming my budget is the same amount – around S$50 each together with a nominal corkage of S$25, at S$125 (about US$102), I can afford two whole bottles of wines compared with a mere four glasses!

Wine by the glass is a more direct approach. The drawback is the relatively limited selection. In a good list, I usually expect an average of four wines from each wine category. It’s an added bonus when I get to choose the size. Bite size for tasting, half glass when you prefer diversity, and a standard glass when you find something you really enjoy. The Tastings Room (pictured), Caveau Wines & Bar, Lolla and Praelum are among those that I patronise for wine by the glass. In these places one can find wines that are made using Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Furmint or Grüner Veltliner. Likely to be a little less known to locals, this can be a pleasant surprise compared to the standard fare found in most set dinners.

But perhaps this year I shall skip the restaurant meal altogether on Valentine’s. A picnic can be equally romantic, and I already have the perfect bottle(s) in mind to bring along.

About Wai Xin Chan

Wai Xin is constantly educating himself in all things wine-related. Believing strongly that wine is for enjoyment and not a trading commodity, he encourages sensible, affordable drinking and the exploration of individual preferences. A Certified Specialist of Wine, his personal wine blog is on