As much as you enjoy sharing a bottle with friends, you could probably do without the waiter breathing down your neck as you eeny-meeny-miney-mo the list. To choose a high-quality, well-priced bottle, Andrea Immer, host of the Fine Living Network's Simply Wine, suggests the following:
Have a clear idea of what you want to spend before you even crack open the menu. A good rule of thumb is to take the price of the most expensive entrée as a baseline and then go up to about 50 percent more than that. If it's $18 for the steak, your ballpark should be $18 to $27.
Why use this formula? The restaurant assumes most people will pay about the price of an entrée for a bottle, so they work hardest to find good-quality wines in that price range.
Taste is the next guideline. Eliminate half the menu by choosing red or white, then go one step further and choose by grape variety, picking one that is crowd-pleasing and versatile. A no-fail white grape is Riesling, and the red grape Shiraz is superb.
If you're getting just a glass, ask for a taste of it before you commit. This is completely legitimate, and some restaurants will even serve you half a glass if you ask.
Understanding A Wine List