Every restaurant and bar should take advantage of the profit center that awaits with its beverage program, but pricing beverages accordingly is a must.
Choosing beverages—in this case, wine—is an important task. The goal is twofold: finding acceptable wines at all price points, and seeking out stunning and unusual wines at higher price points.
The days of having a straight formula for pricing wine are behind us. It used to go like this: A single glass of a wine was typically priced at the wholesale cost of the entire bottle. What that means is a glass of wine that you sell to your customers at $8 a glass would cost your business $8 for the entire bottle. But that formula doesn’t always work. At a neighborhood bar or restaurant, the wine should be priced at $8 a glass, whereas a steakhouse could charge anywhere from $12 to $15 a glass.
By the glass, wines see the highest profit margin, which could bring in four to five times the actual cost. But this also depends on the wine. Something like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is always one of the most popular wines at the best value. It’s a wine that will bring in money, even if it’s listed with a low price. This is not possible for a Napa Cabernet or more expensive wines.
Another common concern is the cutoff price point for wines by the glass. Again, this depends on your concept. A neighborhood bar or restaurant will usually sell wines for $7 to $10 a glass because it’s probably not buying wines that cost more than $10 a bottle. A fine dining restaurant may be more flexible if it has a huge wine-by-the-glass program. The cutoff price is also dependent on how popular the wine is. Your chardonnay by the glass will be very popular if you’re pouring it for $10 a glass. You shouldn’t pay more than $10 a bottle because your margins on popular wines should be higher.
For a higher-end wine (around $15 a glass), you can experiment with more unusual grapes and regions. You want to bring something interesting to your guests. These more obscure wines tend to be more expensive. If you pour a wine for $15 a glass, you have to ask if the guest will buy it at that price and make sure you’re making a profit. Typically, your lower-priced wines have higher margins, and your higher-priced wines by the glass will cost you more. Your wine-by-the-glass program should net you about 25 percent of the cost. This is why you should look at every wine individually and ask yourself what your best cost scenario is for you to be profitable on each wine you purchase.
Pour size is also a huge decision because if you’re pouring a lot of wine, an ounce here and there can really add up over time. A wine bottle holds 25.36 ounces. If you decide to pour five-ounce glasses, you get five glasses out of a bottle. If your pour is six ounces, you only get four glasses out of the bottle. Most diners have no idea how many ounces they are receiving. That’s why glass size is so important. Guests are very visual and can tell if the glass doesn’t look full, no matter what the size. They will feel cheated if the glass is too big and the pour too small.
Here at Chilled, we’re going to suggest the best possible wines by the glass for your bar program. Each story will highlight a handful of wines that meet our criteria of quality and affordability. The wines chosen will be wines that please the palate and can pair with all types of food, including nibbles. To kick things off, these are six of our favorite wines to drink by the glass right now, complete with quick descriptions and our suggested price per glass. If you’re looking to refresh your wine list this month, try one of these delicious and affordable vinos.
Maculan Chardonnay 2017
This volcanic, well-rounded, zippy, and intense Veneto Chardonnay drinks well above its price. Refreshing acidity and fragrant notes of lemon verbena linger throughout this outstanding food companion.
Suggested price: $9
Max Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Errazuriz Winery was recognized by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate as the Best Chilean Winery in 2017. This stunning Sauvignon Blanc has the fruit of New Zealand and the minerality of the Loire Valley.
Suggested price: $11
Naveran Brut Cava 2016
Dry, round, and made with the traditional method, this Spanish sparkler can be enjoyed as an aperitif as well as with a meal. Its versatility and reasonable price demand a bigger payback.
Suggested price: $11
Le Baron Côtes de Provence Rosé 2017
This blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah is light and fruity with watermelon overtones. It’s perfect on its own or with summery food accompaniments.
Suggested price: $6
Max Carmenere 2016
Carmenere, long lost in Bordeaux, has become the symbol of red wine in Chile. Well-spiced and long, this special wine received 93 points from James Suckling.
Suggested price: $11
Storia Italiana Valpolicella Ripasso 2016
Mouthwatering, medium-bodied, rich, and expressive, this Italian gem has layers of flavor and a long finish. It drinks well above its cost.
Suggested price: $14