Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

I rarely order wine in restaurants, particularly wines by the glass. Part of my reluctance is due to a hesitation even to trifle with drinking and driving, part because it's impossible to know how long the bottle that produces the wine by the glass has been open and the conditions under which it has been stored, and part because drinking wine in restaurants is usually a really bad value. But last night, I figured, hey, it's Christmas Eve, I'm not paying for dinner, and I'm not driving home. So why not? I ordered a glass of Coltibuono Cancelli, an IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica -- similar to France's Vin de Pays wines in that the geographical restrictions are usually not very constraining and there aren't many restrictions at all about the grape varieties or winemaking techniques that can be used) wine from Tuscany containing 70% Sangiovese and 30% Syrah. Badia a Coltibuono is prominent Tuscan winemaker specializing in Chianti, with a thousand-year history. Wines made exclusively from estate-grown grapes bear the Badia a Coltibuono label, while wines that include at least some purchased grapes, like the Cancelli I had, have the Coltibuono label. It was a pleasant wine -- bright, acidic, and possessing that pleasant leathery smell that Italian Sangiovese-based wines always have and American Sangiovese-based wines never do. I enjoyed it, and I would buy a bottle if I saw it in stores.

But here's the shocking part. The glass cost $9.50. The entire bottle can be had at retail for $10. In other words, given that the restaurant probably paid a wholesale price for the wine, they made a profit on the first glass of wine they sold from the bottle. I know that maintaining stock in wine is expensive for restaurants, and I know that selling wines by the glass results in a lot of wastage when the remains of bottles have to be poured down the drain because they've been open too long. But come on. People think that it's outrageous when clothing merchants keystone their merchandise (ie, mark their merchandise up to 100% over wholesale price). What about a restaurant marking their wines up to 600% over wholesale price? I feel like a sucker every time I order wine in a restaurant. For all I know, restaurants generate more of a profit this way than they would with a reasonable pricing structure, but I can tell you that a reasonable pricing structure would lead me to order wine in a restaurant more than once a year.

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