If you’ve ever glanced at a restaurant wine list, you know adding a bottle of red or white can inflate your bill pretty quickly.
You may be left wondering how you can buy an entire bottle of Merlot at the state store for under $15, but a single glass is going to run you the same price at a mid-range restaurant. Of course, we expect there will be a markup on any type of alcohol, but why so high with wine?
Sommelier Mark Oldman clues us in.
In his book “How to Drink Like a Billionaire,” Oldman writes that the typical restaurant will markup a bottle of wine at least 200 percent, so that $15 brand you’re familiar with, quickly becomes a $45 bottle — or in extreme cases, even 400 percent with a $75 price tag.
“The need to cover glassware, staff wages, rent, inventory — the reasons are sundry for why wine is marked up an average of three times or 300 percent over the restaurant’s wholesale cost, and sometimes much more than that,” Oldman writes. “But to diners, wine pricing in restaurants seems less like money management and more like cash extraction.”
Oldman writes that running costs, location and size of restaurant all come in to affect the price, as well as whether the management things customers will notice the price hike.
“A restaurant that purchases a bottle for $5 wholesale can mark it up a dizzying 600 percent to $30 without most diners noticing,” he writes. Diners would be more likely to notice a 600 percent price jump on an already more expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
And if you’re really looking for the price hike, look no further than wines by the glass.
“Wines by the glass are so marked up that it is practically industry scripture that the cost of the first glass covers what that restaurant paid wholesale for the bottle,” he writes. A better way to know how much you’re paying for a glass, Oldman says, is to know that each bottle roughly holds about five 5.5 ounce servings, so he recommends dividing the total bottle price by five to figure out what the cost should be.
To avoid restaurant gouging Oldman also suggests avoiding hotel restaurants. Since they typically cater to business travelers and wedding parties, they almost always price their wines and their foods for these free spenders. He also writes to follow local pros including chefs and sommeliers, since they tend to know where the reasonably priced restaurants are.