A waiter will generally hand you a wine list after you are seated and rattle off the wine specials as you ponder over the 30 or so selections of wine they have, wondering why a glass of wine costs $8.00 when you’ve seen the same said wine in bottle at the store for $7.99. This peculiar mystery has befuddled many a patron of restaurants and bars alike, and it’s a question we get asked often. Why are only some wines offered solely by the glass and some wines offered solely by the bottle? Let’s first go back to the history of retail to find the answer.
You’ve heard the adage about restaurants making a majority of their profit from beverages? The same goes for the wine. A single glass of wine will generally be sold at the wholesale cost of the entire bottle, plus a 30% markup. Also, not every restaurant charges the same (as you know) for a beverage, alcohol included, so you could be paying $9.00 for a glass of wine at one place, and $14.00 for the same vintage at another depending on whether it’s a chain restaurant, a local casual joint, or a boutique eatery.
Restaurants also don’t have a standard pour (not for anything, drinkable or eatable), so one place may pour you 4 ounces, and another may pour six. If you’re not sure what you’re getting, ask your waiter (who will then ask their manager). If you’re counting calories, it’s important to know how much wine you’re actually getting, and if you feel you’re not getting enough, ask the manager to consider making a switch. If enough voice their opinion, the restaurant will consider, and even change their serving amount.
Keep these two things in mind; firstly, if you order your wine by the glass, you risk drinking a wine that’s been open for a while. If that wine list is long, the wine could potentially be open for days; for the amount you’re spending, you deserve a freshly opened bottle. Second, if you order wine from a major restaurant, many of these major wine retailers partner with the corporate restaurants and have them push their product. If you order a Merlot, you can bet you’re going to be served the ‘house’ wine, a major retail wine that may have been opened two days ago.
If you want the best wine when you go out, dine locally (they’ll have a smaller batch which they turnover quicker), and order a bottle. One bottle generally serves 4-5 glasses of wine, which is a very comfortable amount for you and your dinner guest. Choose a local Virginia wine, and your overall experience will cross that threshold from good to amazing. Ask us during your next tour who carries a good selection of local wines, and learn more about Virginia wines as well.