Wine producers have always criticised restaurants for charging too much for their wines, and the restaurants reply that to survive they have to uplift prices by two or three times their cost.
Both groups are right in a way, and unfortunately the practice of charging a fixed uplift per bottle instead of a percentage increase has few practitioners. Restaurants are also right when they claim that to acquire and store an expensive wine costs more than is the case of a cheap wine (tied-up capital, etc.), although the producers allege that to serve one bottle of wine costs the same as serving another.
The question that needs answering is: would lower restaurant wine prices encourage people to drink more, so the restaurant could make more money?
Somewhat amazingly there appears never to have been any comparative tests carried out on the subject. How difficult would it be for restaurant to charge a fixed uplift of, say, ten euros per bottle, for a month, then revert back to the usual method, and then see which option gave the bigger profit?
There are a few local restaurants that are real wine-lovers’ paradises, where you can take your own wine and not get charged corkage. They accept that they will only make money on the food you eat, and that if they don’t permit you to drink your wine you will go somewhere else that will be permissive. Unlike in the USA for example, where corkage in a New York restaurant can run from as little as $10 to as much as $35 per bottle, with a limit on the number of bottles you can take. But at least some of the restaurants will waive the charge if you take an exceptional wine and are thoughtful enough to invite the owner to enjoy a glass.
A group of wine aficionados met in the La Nueva Campana Restaurant in Nueva Andalucia Spain earlier this week, and although it is not in the corkage business, we shared some bottles we had brought. The first up was a Pérez Texeira communion wine, blessed by Don Angel Herrera y Oriá, Bishop of Málaga, in 1953. Half the bottle had been lost by evaporation, and it was really just a curiosity, but interesting. Then came the Austrian Alzinger Federspiel 2011, made with the rare Grüner Veltliner grape variety, very impressive. Unfortunately the Ranni Marlborough Wairna Valley Pinot Noir 2010, appeared not to have survived the voyage from New Zealand, and was quietly parked.
Without question the star of the lunch was the Sedella 2009, brought by Charlotte Rodríguez, of Cervinco, a ‘Málaga Mountain Wine’, as such varieties used to be known two centuries ago in export markets. This new wine made from Romé and Garnacha grapes is the personal project of young winemaker Loren Rosillo, (of Martínez Bujanda, Rioja, and other bodegas). The Chateau Climens Sauternes 1983, put up by host Garry Waite, was everything you could expect from such a celebrated wine.
(Originally published in Spanish in Diario Sur 19 Jan 13)