October 8, 2007

Swirl Envy Lite, Restaurant Prices, Wine Bigotry, Calendaring!

Woo Hoo (and an attagirl to me) on the Combatting Swirl Envy – Lite! class! The October 9 class is going to be a lot of fun as we learn how to Pop Pour Store wines and get a basic grounding in corkology. We will also tentatively address the Spit or Dump problem. Don’t forget to sign up!

One of my favorite email wine publications is
30-Second Wine Advisor which sends out pithy articles and musings on everything wine. A couple of recent articles caught my eye and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first article was about the prices of wine in restaurants. As you all know, this is a particular pet peeve of mine. When I went into a particular restaurant some months ago (that I named once and won’t give them publicity any more) that had an $11.00 bottle of Nobilo (a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) on their wine list for $46.00, I went ballistic. We’re not talking about a carefully stored wine that may have earned a higher price because the restaurant ensured its providence, but we’re talking about a wine that is under screwcap and can be stored in a cooler somewhere. A good wine (delicious, as a matter of fact), but certainly not worth *that* kind of markup! There was not that kind of perceived added value.

Restaurants routinely mark up the prices of wine three to four times the wholesale price that they pay, therefore making quite a tidy little sum on each bottle. While I am the last person to deny anyone a decent profit and love the free-market system in which we live, I feel that this is unjust and does not help the restaurants.

At any rate, 30-Second Wine Advisor printed the following, which is an excerpt from the email:

Restaurants justify this practice on the basis of cost: Wine inventory, storage, glassware and service all add legitimate costs, and it's fair to recover that…

Still, a $25 price tag on a $5 bottle seems to be pushing it ... yet it's not uncommon. It's no wonder that wine lovers enthusiastically embrace BYO where the law allows; and that many more elect to pass on wine in favor of beer or a non-alcoholic beverage when dining out.

Accordingly, I'm watching with considerable interest as a local restaurant rolls out a cheeky challenge to wine-list practice. Louisville's
Bristol Bar & Grille, celebrating its 30th anniversary, announced that effective immediately it will offer its entire wine list at twice each wine's wholesale price, effectively matching full-retail wine shop prices.

As a practical matter, this means that the Bristol's bottle price for Heidsieck Champagne will drop from $57 a bottle to about $33. Trevor Jones "Virgin" Australian Chardonnay, $31 on the old list, now sells for $19. The sought-after Cakebread Chardonnay, which sells around $70 at many Louisville eateries, now goes on the Bristol's list at $38.

I think this will be fabulous for the restaurant *and* the consumer, and I’ll tell you why.

First, I admire the guts it took to tackle the problem head-on. Second, if a person knows that he or she is going to pay something close to retail, that person is likely to buy an entire bottle, or, if in a group, won’t hesitate to try multiple bottles if the event calls for it. Let’s see. Customers buying more stuff. More wines may mean more food. That means a larger check total, customers that feel satisfied and not ripped off, and everybody is happy. Customers are less likely to bring in a bottle and pay corkage because they know that the prices on the restaurant’s wine list are fair.

I would rather pay $25.00 corkage for my bottle of Williams Selyem than pay $200.00 for a bottle I paid $60.00 for. Do the math. That’s a “Duh!” moment. I have opted to only buy one bottle of wine at a restaurant and have gone home to open up something else to share with my guests later. Drinking the wine in the restaurant in a celebratory fashion is much better, more fun, and far more festive! I will do my best to continue to track this story to see what the impact is on that local area’s restaurant wine prices.

The next article by 30-Second Wine Advisor was on, in my personal words, wine racism. In other words, how people love a particular color of wine and may not necessarily appreciate the finer points of other colors of wine. I know people, for instance, who love white wines but hate wines of color. Very sad. Very limiting.

Now, lest you think that I have a pure, unbiased view of wine colors, I have to correct that assumption. I prefer red wines. Deep and rich, they offer full-bodied complexity. Not unlike myself. Their dark fruits and earthy character enthrall me and reds will always be my favorite.

However, I the last few years have seen me approaching white wines with cautious enthusiasm. I spent years (literally) looking for a repeat of my first major Chardonnay experience. The insipid, overly sweet, lemonade-tasting things could not approach my memory of a wine that exploded with tropical fruit, vanilla, melon, and spice, and which fit my tongue like a glove. I finally found it again the higher end (of course, dammit) California Chardonnays. However, once that was accomplished, I was wooed by New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs which, of course, sent me around the corner to Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. The discovery of Viognier was quite an experience. For the first time, I understood the nuances of fragrance on wine as I inhaled flowers.

The upshot is this: Don’t be a wine bigot. Try different wines. Read up on stuff about wine and wine pairings. Understand that some wines will go better with some foods (Chenin Blanc and Steak = Bad. Chenin Blanc and fresh Oysters = Yum).

Calendaring! Do you have a Wine or Vegas event that you want local folks to know about? I’ll be more than happy to put on my calendar which appears on the website and on the My Space page.

Speaking of My Space, I’ve learned to love it! I have lots of “friends” which include Hug Cellars and Vihuela Winery of Paso Robles! I’m currently waiting for Clautiere to add me on their list. Don’t forget to send pics to my gmail account at
vegasrenie@gmail.com so that I can post them in My Space. If you’re member, look me up at www.MySpace.com/vegaswineaux .

Until next time

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