Does your eatery even care what wine you're drinking?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I was having lunch down at the Nodding Head pub in
downtown Philadelphia. It’s a great brewpub that produces
some amazing beers of its own, but also the kitchen is
great. I had a hankering for their jambalaya, which I
consider great for the price (it’s very filling) and the
taste. As I was choosing what to drink, I had both a pint
of beer and a glass of wine. Pete, the manager on duty who
was attending bar asked me the question, “what’s the best
wine in a brewpub” to which the answer was “the last
Well, the answer dealt with the fact that, firstly, it’s
a brewpub, and they are in the business of serving beer.
For those of you that don’t realize, wine starts to lose
its taste/consistency after it’s opened by a process called
aeration, or oxygenation. Usually, a bottle of red might
last two to three days after opening, and whites can last
maybe a few days more; this is all of course with proper
storage. With this reality, you can’t really see them
stocking a bunch of good wine, if they are only going to
server one or two glasses, and then have to dump the
bottle’s contents when it goes bad.
The second caveat of the answer was the fact that many
places that really have no interest in wine are not going
to really offer their patrons a nice selection to choose
some. I spoke to that briefly in my
article “Deconstructing Wine.” In this, there is a pretty
interesting scenario; restaurants are now doing fifty
percent of their business based on alcohol sales, but of
this revenue, the highest margins are actually for either
cocktails or straight pours (shots, liquor on the rocks, or
even paired with tonic). For example, you can get at least
seventeen shots from a standard fifth bottle. A bottle of
Johnnie Walker Blue Label costs around $200, while a shot
of it will run around $60; $60 x 17 = $1020, a profit of
$820 for the bottle. A standard pour of wine is five
ounces, yielding five glasses per bottle, with a normal
profit of two and one-half to four times the price of the
bottle. Now, while it’s rare for most people to order the
Blue Label, and about as rare for many places to carry it,
you can still realize that anywhere from three to five
shots from a bottle of liquor pays for the bottle, with the
house making a minimum of four hundred percent return on
the bottle, but making it a lot faster with liquor than
wine. Also depending upon the type of liquor, the pour
might be smaller.
So, at this point, you might realize that they are
caring more about pushing mixed drinks and straight liquor
than wine, not caring about your wine selections.
Another part of this scenario is that the buyers are not
schooled in wine, if even interested in it in the least,
and in this, there is no interest in actually looking for
quality wines at decent prices to offer their customers.
And this leads to another interesting position in which
there are reps visiting the establishment and pushing low
qualities mass-consumption wines, such as your basic
Woodbridge and Sutter Home offerings, or that the person
charged with purchasing alcohol chooses things based on
what they see other places offering.
And of course, these reps are not caring about the wine
that those patrons are drinking.
Now this “monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon is one that
in the end, does the patrons the worst. Too often,
restaurants wine lists between different places are so
similar that it’s tragically pathetic. And depending upon
the level of establishment, what you see might become more
and more daunting; check out the amount of places still
serving jug wine as a staple.
More so, you have the reality whereas the rules of
supply, demand and quality come into play. Wine producers
would always love to sell their wine quickly, but they
might not have the capital to market their wines as much a
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