What the people who do wine lists still don’t understand about restaurant wine pricing

restaurant wine pricingRestaurant wine pricing is the key to a successful list – why is that so hard to figure out?

The article in the trade magazine was called “Winning the wine game: Experts share advice for building great lists,” and the five people quoted all seemed to be smart, savvy, and knowledgeable. So what the was the one thing that almost none of them mentioned as a way to build a great wine list? Sensible restaurant wine pricing.

Nothing demonstrates the conundrum that is restaurant wine pricing more than the jargony writing in this article. “Thinking of the list as a holistic set of offerings that compliment each other is key.” Does anyone have any idea what that sentence means? How will it help anyone put together a quality wine list? Plus, it should be complement, not compliment.

Hence, the problem we face with restaurant wine pricing. Not enough people who put together wine lists understand that pricing is more important than anything else. It’s not screwcaps vs. corks or treating wholesalers with respect, two pieces of advice in the article. If we can’t buy wine at a fair price, we won’t – and there is almost 10 years of post-recession wine sales data to prove that point.

We’re tired of paying $35 for a $10 bottle of wine, but no one quoted in the piece seems to realize that. The closest anyone came – “A list needs to contain good lower-end bottle prices, along with the well-known higher end [wines]” – still doesn’t address the problem. Most restaurant wine pricing is too high, and there’s no good reason for it.

And if these five experts don’t see pricing as a problem, what does that say about the rest of the restaurant business – who probably aren’t as expert or as successful? Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

More about restaurant wine pricing:
The John Cleese/Fawlty Towers guide to restaurant wine service
Winecast 28: Bret Thorn, Nation’s Restaurant News
British restaurants to customers: Sod off

2 thoughts on “What the people who do wine lists still don’t understand about restaurant wine pricing

  • By AC -

    With this quote from the piece you referenced, “Keeping in mind that a wine list is there to serve the guest.” The other thing no one mentioned was the readability of the list. That would be type size and paper color.

    I was recently in a restaurant in Dallas and was with a printer who looked at the list and went, “Whoa, 4-point type!” and it was in a darkened room on dark yellow paper. Fortunately, I had a phone with a flashlight and glasses to magnify the miniscule print. There was room on the paper (I was also with an editor, who said, “Oh, there’s room!”) to make the print larger (10-11 point perhaps?)

    Those would be my additions. Older guests, who have disposable income are not being served well in this arena.

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