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Tag Archives: wine trends

Restaurant wine prices in Europe

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restaurant wine prices in EuropeThe email from my friend visiting Spain not only waxed poetic about the wine, but about the prices: “Talk about cheap wine. Beautiful wine for €12, and the most expensive bottle was €24.” In other words, restaurant wine prices in Europe were U.S. retail prices — which is unheard of in the States.

This is not unusual. When my brother was in Sicily, he marveled at both the quality and the prices in restaurants, drinking Cusumano for more or less what I pay for it at a Dallas liquor store. I’ve seen the same thing when I’ve traveled to Europe; as one sommelier at a very high-end restaurant owned by a famous Spanish chef told me: “Why would we want to charge as much as you do in the States? Then people won’t order as much wine.”

How is this possible? After all, talk to most restaurateurs in the U.S., and they make it sound as if they’ll go out of business if they don’t charge $30 for a wine that cost them $8:

• Europe’s on-gong recession, and especially in southern Europe. If there is 25 percent unemployment, it doesn’t make much economic sense to overcharge for wine.

• The idea that wine is part of dinner, which is the way Europeans have always seen wine, and not something in addition to dinner, the way Americans — and especially American restaurateurs — have always seen wine.

• Better wine list sensibilities, where the restaurant sells wine to drink and not to impress high-dollar patrons or wine snobs. Or, as Jacques Pepin told me, why would anyone want to pay for Bordeaux when you can drink the local wine, usually of high quality, and spend less money?

• No three-tier system, which may be the most important reason. In Europe, there isn’t a distributor getting its cut, which can add as much as 20 percent to the cost of wine. The restaurant can order directly from the producer, who is often local, and enjoys supply chain efficiencies that we can only dream about here.

First Wine Curmudgeon wine prices survey

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wine pricesThe biggest impression from the first Wine Curmudgeon wine prices survey? That several of my assumptions about wine prices may not be true, including that prices are not  a function of where in the country the store is located. Second, that wine is increasingly treated like other consumer packaged goods, where pricing is not about cost but about bringing customers into the store and serving as a loss leader.

The caveats first: I only got prices for 50 wines or so from the blog’s readers, so there is nothing scientific about this. I know better than to make that claim. But, as we repeat the exercise every year, we should be able to work our way to more prices and better results. And my thanks to everyone who participated.

So what generalizations can we safely get from this?

• Costco, if it doesn’t have the best wine prices in the country, is the standard by which other retailers price their products. It’s not news that many retailers in markets that compete with Costco match the warehouse chain’s prices, but it surprised me just how low other retailers will go. How about $7 for Smoking Loon, Ravenswood, and Mark West at a Denver-area retailer? That’s more or less the wholesale price.

• Independents don’t necessarily mean higher prices, especially in very competitive markets like New York City. One reader paid 20 percent less for the Los Dos garnacha blend in Manhattan than I did in Dallas.

• Grocery stores remain the great unknown. Raley’s, a chain in northern California, beat Total Wine and BevMo, two of the biggest chains in the country, on Michael David’s Earthquake zinfandel. Haggen’s, which aspires to be a big-time West Coast grocer, charged almost three times as much as Costco for Toasted Head chardonnay.

• Expect to pay more if the wine isn’t well-known or a Big Wine brand, or doesn’t have a powerful distributor behind it, regardless of who sells it. Bonny Doon’s Vin de Cigare rose was the same price, $15, in Dallas and the East Coast.

• Imports, and especially from France, may be a couple of bucks more than comparable domestic wines, even if they don’t offer a couple of bucks more of value. This is another example of how the French still see the U.S. as a captive market, and don’t understand that it isn’t 1976 anymore.

 

The Wine Curmudgeon as hipster: Dude, he likes rose

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rose

I totally get the resemblance… hat and beard and even glasses.

The news is official, from not just Deadspin and Details, which are about as hipster as post-modern media get, but from Manhattan sommeliers — and even their more hip Brooklyn brethren: “Dude, we’re drinking rose.” “Bro, you are so right.”

This is so exciting that the Wine Curmudgeon, given his long love and advocacy of rose, is going to grow one of those hipster beards and wear one of those hipster hats. Because, dude, rose is freakin’ awesome. Fist bump here.

On the one hand, I should be thrilled that the hipsters have embraced rose, because anyone embracing rose is a good thing in the fight for quality cheap wine, given that it’s almost impossible to find a $10 pink wine that isn’t worth drinking. Plus, that people who may not know wine, who usually drink craft beer or artisan cocktails made with pickle brine, are now drinking rose is something to be much appreciated.

On the other hand, why is this trend — any wine trend, really — only official if a Manhattan sommelier approves of it? Why can’t it be a trend if a cranky, middle-aged ex-sportswriter who lives in the middle of the country approves of it? And, regardless of the personal insult to me, why isn’t it a trend because rose sales have been spiking upward for a couple of years — without any help from people who work at what the Details article called a Brooklyn “fauxhemian” hangout?

Just chill, dude.

Maybe so. The Wine Curmudgeon has been known to visit Manhattan (Brooklyn, even). So, in the spirit of rose-mance, I will bring rose with me the next time I go, and not the usual Provencal pink the hipsters know. How about South African rose? Or Spanish rose? Or even Texas rose? Because, bro, I want to, like, be totally cool with that.

 

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