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Winebits 382: Liquor reform edition

• Ontario does its duty: The Canadian province has made major changes in the way it sells beer, wine, and spirits, something that seemed hard to believe in a province with the Read More »

winetrends

Restaurant wine prices: A better way

What better way to follow up this month’s very popular post about escalating restaurant wine prices than with a story about restaurants that charge reasonable prices and sell more wine — and Read More »

winetrends

The Wine Curmudgeon’s first wine prices survey

One of the difficulties with writing a wine blog that focuses on price, and that most of my colleagues don’t have, is that there is no standard for wine prices in the Read More »

winetrends

Premiumization: Are wine drinkers really trading up?

That’s the top trend in wine this year, that we’re feeling better about the economy and trading up: Buying more expensive wine than the wine we bought during the recession, moving from Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Château Martinon 2011

Dear Bordeaux wine wise guys: You’ve been moaning and wailing that Americans have abandoned your wines, and you claim to be baffled why. Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is here to explain. Your Read More »

Winebits 382: Liquor reform edition

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liquor reformOntario does its duty: The Canadian province has made major changes in the way it sells beer, wine, and spirits, something that seemed hard to believe in a province with the Canadian equivalent of state stores. Nevertheless, liquor reform has come, and it will soon be possible to buy beer in a grocery store, buy wine online, and sleect from more interesting win in the province. And pricing will become more consumer friendly, with provincial officials vowing to negotiate better deals with producers. “The days of monopoly are done,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne. Which raises the question: If Ontario can do this, and it has been called one of the last bastions of Prohibition, why do we have such trouble reforming liquor laws in the U.S.?

Even in Texas: Sort of, anyway. The Texas Legislature is discussing whether to allow Walmart, Costco, Kroger and other publicly-held companies to open liquor stores in the state. Currently, only privately-held companies can get a license to do that, and there is even a provision in the law that forbids people who aren’t related from owning more than five stores. The Lege, as the late Molly Ivins so fondly called it, probably won’t change the law this session, but there is momentum to allow grocery stores to own liquor stores and it could happen sooner rather than later. Why they need to own liquor stores, rather than selling liquor in their existing stores, is a story for another time.

But probably not in Pennsylvania: The blog has covered liquor reform in Pennsylvania almost since its inception, and nothing ever seems to happen. That has not stopped liquor stores in Delaware, which borders Pennsylvania, from holding panicked meetings to demand reform in Delaware in case Pennsylvania actually changes its state store system. The Wine Curmudgeon has some advice for Delaware: “Chill, dude.” The day Pennsylvania gets rid of state stores is the the day I write an homage to 15 percent chardonnay.

Restaurant wine prices: A better way

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Restaurant wine pricesWhat better way to follow up this month’s very popular post about escalating restaurant wine prices than with a story about restaurants that charge reasonable prices and sell more wine — and make more money — in the process? That was the theme of my piece in the current issue of the Beverage Media trade magazine, where one restaurateur told me: “We want our customers to be able to have dinner for two with a glass of wine each for $35 a person.”

Revolutionary thinking in a world where glass of wine costs $10 and bottles are marked up four times their wholesale price, no?

The highlights of the article, as well as a few of my thoughts:

• The debate centers around volume vs. margin; that is, does the restaurant want to sell a lot of wine, or is its business model focused on the amount it makes per bottle? This margin approach, which has been the model most restaurants use, has given us the $10 glass. Not surprisingly, those who use it still see no reason to change.

• Yet an increasing number of restaurants see a better way. “There is sort of this infrequently spoken gripe from consumers: ‘Why are we paying these kinds of markups?’… [T]hey are going to be cynical about your wine program.” says Stan Frankenthaler, chief officer of food, beverage and strategic supply for CraftWorks, which operates about 200 restaurants under 11 brands, including Old Chicago and Rock Bottom. That someone at a chain said this speaks to the failure of the margin model, since chains have some of the worst and most marked-up wine lists.

• A better approach: Pricing tiers, like 4 times wholesale, 2½ times, and 2 times, based on quality and availability. If the wine is difficult to find, for instance, or offers exceptional value, we’re more likely to pay 4 times markup — and especially if we have legitimate, less expensive choices instead of grocery store wine masquerading as something else.

• This story includes advice from my pal Diane Teitelbaum, who died shortly after I interviewed her. “You can sell a $100 bottle once a day, or you can sell $20 bottles of wine all day and all night,” she told me. No wonder everyone misses her so much.

 

 

The Wine Curmudgeon’s first wine prices survey

winetrends

wine prices One of the difficulties with writing a wine blog that focuses on price, and that most of my colleagues don’t have, is that there is no standard for wine prices in the U.S. One region’s $10 wine can be another’s $15 wine, and this doesn’t take into account states with minimum pricing laws or those with government-owned retailers.

It’s not the problem availability is, but it’s enough of a problem that I decided to do this post, which is also something many of you have asked for. The goal is to get pricing data from readers around the country, put it into a spreadsheet, and see if we can determine regional differences. That is, we’ll know that a wine in Dallas will cost 10 percent less in one place or 15 percent more in another. That way, when I list the price, you can make the appropriate adjustment.

So let’s do this:

First, e-mail me the prices for two or three wines you buy regularly, as well as where you buy them. Or, you can click the Contact link at the top of the page. Preferably, these should be wines we talk about on the blog, since doing it for wine prices higher than $15 won’t help much. I’ll take your prices for the next month or so, until Mother’s Day.

Then, I’ll flesh out your numbers with wine prices from retailers I know around the country, using your wines as the guidelines.

Finally, I’ll crunch the numbers and publish the results on the blog. We also might be able to learn a thing or two and make some news in the process: Are Big Wine prices more consistent? Do state taxes make that much of a difference? Are some retailers more or less expensive?

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