CNN Money reported today that restaurant wine lists are huge rip-offs. I think we all knew this. But just in case you weren’t clear on the facts:
Restaurants mark up cheaper bottles by an average of three times the retail price, while the prices of higher end wines are typically doubled, says Ronn Wiegand, a master sommelier who runs the industry newsletter RestaurantWine.
Last week, I got to eat at the wonderful (and amazingly expensive) new restaurant Sage in Las Vegas’s new Aria / City Center complex. My friend and I picked a $44 bottle of Argentinian Malbec off of the wine list, and proceeded to enjoy two bottles, but I was aware that the bottle probably retailed for around $15. We made a decision to “not think about it.” That said, we both felt we got off lucky with the $44. Mixed into the French listings was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tâche, which was listed at over $9000. Per bottle. Ouch!
The CNN article continues, with tips about wine by the glass:
Think that’s rough? Prices for wine sold by the glass are tripled or even quadrupled, Wiegand says, since restaurants have to account for the chance that they won’t sell the whole bottle before it spoils.
I hate ordering wine by the glass, but occasionally, that’s all I want and I bite the bullet. If I’m with a group though, or if Kevin and I actually want the same glass, I’ll tend towards a bottle. Back when Tonic was Twist, I would always order a bottle of the Gruet Sparkling Wine from New Mexico as opposed to just a glass. The difference between an ~$14 glass and a $40 bottle seemed negligible when people were sharing. I recently noticed that Tonic still offers the Gruet on their list, so if I can ever tear myself away from cocktails, I might resort to the full bottle again.
Many restaurant wine lists have a sweet spot – that spot where you can find several bottles of wine in a similar price range that is actually affordable and not so far off from the retail price to give you a heart attack. At Sage, we found that spot in the Argentinian section. At the Wine Cellar at Las Vegas’s Rio, that spot was located in the Spanish wine section. So if you have to shop by price, look for the sweet spot.
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