Ever wonder why wine is so expensive in restaurants? Me too. I have my theories but does it really matter? Wine is, and has always been, a profit centre for restaurants and that concept isn't likely to change anytime soon, especially in Whistler.
There is tendency to talk about excellent wine lists but for the most part the talk is confined to selection not pricing. In fact, when is the last time you chose a restaurant just because the wine prices were superior to anything else in town? Continuing along that theme, maybe it is time we re-jigged the modern restaurant wine list or at least how wines get listed.
Restaurant owners and/or chefs would never let anyone design their menus or choose their food suppliers for them but more often than not they will hand over the only part of the restaurant that makes any real money to a large wine distributor, or a multi-national wine giant and say, here you make it work, in exchange for a handful of leather menus or the cost of printing and maintaining menus and wine lists.
Large wineries and/or distributors have a lot of room to manoeuvre in the murky back rooms of wine list selections but that doesn't particularly bother me until I look at the list and can't find a single bottle selling at a price that matches the food, décor and my budget.
Am I the only guy who knows I'm paying way too much for wine in restaurants or have the rest of you just given up? When a winery is getting less than $10 to grow, make, market and ship a bottle of wine to Canada, should I really have to pay $50 to $70 or more to enjoy it with my meal in a restaurant?
Restaurants tend to play the tax card when it comes to pricing but when they prepare a chicken or a fish dish where they actually create something, use resources and add value, the price is almost always moderate, as in, they wouldn't dare add an extra $10 to the entrée because customers would complain. But they take an ordinary $28 Chablis and sell it for $65 and the world is right.
So, before you go listing every wine your customers have never heard of to build a look-what-I have-that-my-competitors-do-not, wine list, stop! And before you decide to pay for your new car lease by tripling the price of my favourite New Zealand pinot noir, stop! And before you put the price of that lamb osso buco down $2 and add $10 to my Cote du Rhone red, stop! And most important of all, stop letting your favourite distributor buy or design your wine list because after all, what, if any, incentive does an agent have to build a balanced, attractive wine list that contains wines that he or she does not sell?