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ORDERING BY THE GLASS, BY THE BOTTLE

Wine is an integral part of the restaurant experience these days - much more than it once was. Maybe that's why readers have so many questions about it:

Q: Is it wiser to order wine by the glass or by the bottle?

A: That depends. It's certainly more economical to order by the bottle, especially if there is more than one person at the table. You can do the math yourself: a glass of wine can be priced at $6 or more, and local wine and food consultant Dave Male, who is also director of the Tasters Guild, reminds us that the average glass of wine is four ounces. There are six glasses in a bottle, and that means you can order a bottle of wine for $30 or so and still come out ahead.

You might want to reconsider if you are planning to order two different glasses of wine (a white and a red, maybe) with dinner. It would be less expensive to go for a bottle of one or the other.

If you're worrying about the condition or quality of wine by the glass, however, you can probably relax.

Most experts agree that the nitrogen systems for holding the wine to be served by the glass are usually so effective that the wine does not deteriorate quickly.

Q: Do you advise ordering the house wine?

A: Again, it depends. Ask what the house wine is, of course. And if the answer is something like "merlot," you might want to ask whose merlot before you order it. There are a lot of inferior wines out there.

If, on the other hand, the answer is simply "burgundy" or "chablis," you might want to opt for Pepsi.

Too many restaurants use as their house brand the wine they buy by the gallon for $14 or so. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, so again, do the math. If they're selling the house wine for even $2.50 a glass, they're making quite a profit.

Q: What's the best way to send wine back?

A: Quietly. But firmly. You simply call the server over and tell him the wine is not satisfactory and then give the reason.

For this to work, there has to be something really wrong with the wine. Maybe it's turned to vinegar or maybe there's cork floating around in it, for instance.

It is not considered good form to send the wine back simply because you don't like the taste. You're supposed to know what you ordered.

Have a question about wine? Send it to Janice Okun, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240 or email at jokun@buffnews.com

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