Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wine by the Glass: The road to wine discovery

Over the years we have seen a rise in the number of wine bars in cities and towns in North America and Asia. It wasn't long ago that all you could get were the house red and white wines (normally unpalatable and cheap) available by the glass, half liter and bottle.

This exciting evolution shows that consumers on both sides of the Pacific are developing an appreciation for better quality wines, thanks, in part, to the many wine journals and newspaper wine articles that are readily available in the last 10 years, as well as movies such as Sideways and Bottle Shock; not to mention several wine related shows on the Food Network television.

Yet, despite this unprecedented growth, many establishments are still stuck in their old ways by offering the most uninteresting selections that are over priced and usually oxidized. Many are unwilling to take the risk of opening bottles that may not sell quickly; not having the right equipment to preserve open bottles; or simply not buying the idea of having several wines available by the glass as economically sound. In both markets, the real culprit is actually the price for a glass of wine. Read: Needs to be lower. The old system that relied on wine sales as the MAIN source of revenue needs major revision. Read: Wine and spirits sales should be part of the overall revenue. I never understand why a wine that wholesales for $15.00 becomes $50.00 a bottle and $13.00 per glass in many restaurants and wine bars. Imagine if this same wine was offered at $28 per bottle and $7.00 per glass? Here's what I would do if I was a customer: I would order 2 glasses instead of one.

You can see where I'm going with this. It is a no-brainer. Sure, some of these establishments would say that they need more than 200% markup to cover costs. Here's my answer: the more expensive your pricing, th
e less you sell, vice-versa. Of course it does not help that some cities have higher taxes or monopolies which charge high markups. Still, if we use the same wholesale price of $15.00, why can't they offer it for $28.00 per bottle?

I remember one of my earlier visits to Turin as a guest of the Italian Trade Commission along with several wine importers from Canada. One memorable part of this trip was the last dinner in the city where we were all amazed at the low price for quality wines that were on the restaurant list. As expected, we went crazy ordering bottles that were priced at a fraction of what we would pay in Canada.

As the title of this post suggests, wine by the glass program is a road to wine discovery. Just imagine new wine consumers having access to several exciting selections that change each week, all priced below $10.00 per glass. If you are the wine bar proprietor, you'd be smiling all the way to the bank. Why? Your spot becomes the hottest destination for wine lovers to discover new wines without having to buy a bottle. This has been proven in many cities. But you have to do more than just serve offer wine. In Italy, France and Spain, many places provide small plates of bite size goodies to accompany your wine, gratis. Read: Goodwill and loyal clientele.

Leo J. Baduria

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