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Whine By The Glass

Thanks to Noah over at Juice for the tip on a thought provoking article in Food and Wine about wine by the glass in restaurants.

Why the hell DOES wine by the glass cost so much? You know the drill, you're in a nice restaurant, by yourself or with a friend that doesn't drink, or maybe you need to drive home. A whole bottle is out of the question and maybe they don't have half bottles on the menu. So you're relegated to the glass list, which starts with a Sauvignon Blanc at $13 a glass. Now you and I both know that most Sauvignon Blanc costs about $15 a bottle for some of the best stuff, so why are you being served wine that could be two or three days old at what amounts to a bottle cost of $105? I wonder about that too.

This article offers at least a potential solution: treat wine like an optioned product, whose price changes with supply and over time. That glass of wine that costs you $14 when they just open the bottle should cost you $10 a day later and $7 after two days, etc. Of course in reality this is way more overhead than most restaurants could handle in terms of variable pricing, but it's a compelling question. Beyond the obvious need for restaurants to make a reasonable amount of money on wine, why does the by-the-glass menu hurt so much?

Comments (12)

enoch choi wrote:
02.04.05 at 11:09 PM

why? because they can get away with it. we don't want to bring a bottle every time we go out, and they know that.

Fatemeh wrote:
02.04.05 at 11:47 PM

Most recently when I've found myself in this situation, I go ahead and purchase a bottle and take home whatever I haven't finished.

Of course, we have the luxury of doing that in California, whereas it's quite against the law in many states.

Do I enjoy paying restaurant markup on a bottle I'm going to finish at home? Not really. But I'd rather pay a bottle markup and know when it was opened than pay a glass markup and hope for the best.

Quezzy wrote:
02.05.05 at 8:36 AM

Having sold wine to restaurants in Napa as well as most of the Bay Area, the price of wine by the glass is based on the cost of the bottle. Glass price equates to the price paid for the bottle in order to justify opening the bottle and perhaps selling only one glass before the wine oxidizes.The first glass poured ensures that the bottle is paid for,the rest is profit.

Sam wrote:
02.05.05 at 9:15 AM

Soon, at least in NYC, the wine "doggie-bag" will replace such concerns.

Alder wrote:
02.05.05 at 4:47 PM


I've gathered as much from conversations with other restaurantuers, and while the last thing I would want to do is deny any restaurant the opportunity to make a living, I have to wonder, as does this columnist, whether that's the only way to go about it. There's got to be a better way to be able to still ensure some profit without having to price wine by the glass so high to start with. Unfortunately short of the depreciation model suggested in the article, I'm a little stumped for suggestions.

Alder wrote:
02.05.05 at 4:52 PM


I'm encouraged to see the adoption of such a law in NYC, and in Canada, where just a couple of weeks ago people were able to start bringing their own wines to restaurants and also bringing home what they don't finish.

However, this doesn't really solve the entire problem. Sometimes I just don't want to spend the money for an entire bottle of wine, or even if I was ok with the $$, I wouldn't end up drinking the whole bottle and it would go to waste sitting in my fridge at home. Sort of the same reason I don't always bring a bottle out with me to dinner and just pay corkage fees. On the surface, that eliminates the high cost of wine by the glass, but I don't want to open a whole bottle just to drink a couple of glasses.

So I sympathize with the author of the article a bit in wondering if there isn't somehow a better way....?

Tenndog wrote:
02.05.05 at 6:48 PM

Has anyone ever asked their server how their by-the-glass wine is kept? Because if they've just opened the bottle and let it sit for a few days (as I KNOW the glass of Evolution I had last night had been), what's the point after 3-4 hours? Maybe the answer is to reward restaurants that take the time and effort to take care of the wine and simply buy bourbon elsewhere.

Barbara wrote:
02.06.05 at 3:13 AM

Even worse than the cost is when your wine by the glass is served in a cheap glass and patrons buying by the bottle get to drink from a quality and often larger glass.

Alder wrote:
02.06.05 at 7:41 AM

Ooh yeah. Doesn't that just suck?

Molly wrote:
02.06.05 at 8:27 AM

I drink a lot of wines by the glass because I like different wines for different courses. I ALWAYS ask "Was this opened tonight?" because I find so often that it was opened yesterday or the day before or God knows when AND they want me to pay $10 for it. No thanks.

Alicia wrote:
02.07.05 at 12:40 AM

I've found that if I'm only buying a glass and I request a fresh bottle the waiter will almost always open one.

Gareth Hall wrote:
03.15.05 at 6:45 PM

http://www.ozwinebars.com/ maybe if they had one of these no-one would be complaining :)

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