I had fun reading the latest blog post from Matt Kramer over at the Wine Spectator. He talks about three different things the wine industry doesn’t want you to know about . . . and the first topic deals with the economics of wines by the glass and why they are not a good deal for the consumer. Here is a link so you can read it yourself:
His main premise about wines by the glass has to do with pricing and the fact that by the glass wines are usually priced such that the first glass sold covers the wholesale cost of the entire bottle for the restaurant. In other words, when you order that glass of Pinot Grigio and pay $8 for it, you’ve just covered what the restaurant paid for the entire bottle!
I really do not take too much exception to this – I’ve ‘accepted’ restaurant pricing and realize that if I’m going to order wines in almost any restaurant, I’m going to pay exorbitant prices for it, and this certainly includes those wines by the glass. This is NOT to say that I’m happy about the pricing schemes in restaurants; nor does it imply that I actually purchase a lot of wine in restaurants (I actually do not, and in a small way, this is my way of ‘protesting’). But if I want wine with my meal, and I did not or cannot bring my own bottle, I will gladly purchase a wine by the glass. It’s also a great way to try wines, varieties, or regions that you have not before without the cost of purchasing an entire bottle.
That said, my biggest concern about purchasing wine by the glass in most restaurants has to do with the quality of the wines being poured. No, I’m not being a ‘snob’ here and implying that I won’t purchase a ‘lesser’ label or variety. What I mean is that most restaurants do not store the wines served by the glass well. Therefore, after the first glass is poured, the bottle may be left out on the counter for hours or even days, allowing it to oxidize and therefore not be fresh. Or it may go back into a fridge but perhaps without topping it with nitrogen or another inert gas to minimize oxidation.
A new trend in restaurants, especially in urban areas, is to offer wines on tap by the glass or in electronic serving machines. This is a great idea in theory, but I’ve experience ‘faulty’ wines both on tap and in electronic machines due to the lack of maintenance of these systems. In both scenarios, the tubing needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, and it’s necessary to ‘bleed the lines’ to ensure that leftover wine in the tubes is removed each night and the next day to ensure ‘fresh pours’ for customers.
As a consumer, the power lies with you to ensure that your satisfaction is met with these wines by the glass. Please do not feel you are ‘insulting’ the restaurant or a server if you turn away a wine by the glass poured by you because it is not ‘fresh tasting’. And certainly feel empowered to ask them to open a new bottle for you – and pour your glass in front of you. A good restaurant will not only accept your request, but gladly do it, knowing that this small token of customer service will ensure that you will continue to pay the prices they charge for these wines.
Let me know your thoughts on the issue if you don’t mind – and please share your experiences, both good and bad, with wines by the glass.