As America’s thirst for wine continues to grow, restaurants across the country are taking a close look at their wine programs such as profitable wines-by-the-glass lists. Maybe we should all do the same. In terms of selecting a wine that will give you a good return on your investment, a little knowledge goes a long way. Today I went to Vivo, a trendy restaurant in downtown Cleveland, for a light lunch. As soon as we sat down, a well-trained server asked for our drink order. Without waiting for a wine list, I quickly ordered a Pinot Grigio and my guest order a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, both by the glass. In restaurants such as Vivo, I often order without looking at the list as most wine savvy establishments provide reasonably priced, unoaked whites for around $6 to $8 a glass – plus lunch is lunch, right? When the bill arrived, I discovered that we sipped $46 worth of wine in four simple glasses – at lunch! Shocked, I chatted it up with the server who politely told us that the pours are usually 5 glasses to a bottle and that it is always cheaper to order wine by the bottle. OK. I get that – but the Maso Canali (a Gallo wine which retails for $17.99) was listed on the menu for $42. Had we consumed 5 glasses instead of 4, our price would have been $65 for the same volume of wine. That’s a $23 smack on the hand for ordering by the glass instead of bottle. More than somewhat disgruntled, I could not help but wonder if this is happening all over town. So I stopped by Lola on the way back to my office to take a look at their list. Here, Michael Symon (Food Network star and celibrity chef) offers lovely white wines by the glass all between $6.75 – $8.50. So let’s compare: Lola’s Mudhouse Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99 retail) is offered by the glass for $6.25 at 5 glasses to the bottle the cost is $31.25 this same volume of wine by the bottle sells for $25 representing a mear $6.25 mark up on glass over bottle (remember, my wine at Vivo was marked up $23.) So the question is, how much are you willing to by for a glass of wine? George Schindler of Blue Pointe and Salmon Dave’s fame prides himself on the fact that he sells a 6oz glass at of wine at exactly 1/4th of the price as the bottle with no glass mark up at all. Good for you George. While many establishments justify the need to jack up the price of the wine by the glass to cover spoilage, I wonder if chefs will one day follow suit. Could we soon be paying for an entire side of beef just to get a burger? Buyer beware.
Price Gouging by the Glass
About the Author: Marianne Frantz
A Certified Wine Educator, Marianne holds a Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) of London, and has also earned the Advanced Sommelier qualification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. After successfully participating in an educational competition sponsored by the Wines of Australia in the spring of 2008, Marianne became an educational Ambassador for Wine Australia USA. She is also a Certified Spanish Wine Educator.