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ISO Price Benchmark Wines

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I'm looking for a list of 3-4 wines that are widely available on most restaurant wine lists, and are useful to benchmark the size of the markup, plus the 'normal' prices. Quality is not an issue, just usefulness as a benchmark. Any suggestions?

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  1. I often use Veuve Clicquot non-vintage champagne as a benchmark for both liquor stores and restaurants. Cheapest I've found it in a store in NY was about $33 last year - sometimes as high as $45.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      I use Veuve Clicquot also, because it is so widely available.

    2. The problem with this is that restaurants and retailers know that you know how much a bottle of Cliquot should cost. Many stores use a low price as a lure to bring in customers, hoping to make money on other items they may purchase. This will make the obvious price-gougers stand out sometimes, but not always, because some stores don't want to sell Cliquot but feel obligated because of consumer demand and may just mark it up out of spite.

      Restaurants use different mark-ups at different price points, non-vintage Champagnes often have the highest, while prestige cuvees (ie Dom Perignon) often have the lowest. If I were a sommelier I would probably put a ridiculously high price on Veuve Cliquot to encourage people to try more interesting Champagnes and make money off of the more label-conscious clientele who need their Cliquot.

      The same applies to still wines. Keep in mind that restaurants often carry mediocre to poor vintages of wines, so if a price seems to good to be true...

      In short, I don't believe there is a short-cut. You have the responsibility as a consumer to learn what you like and what you're willing to pay for it. Isn't that what being a Chowhound is all about?

      1. hello, you can get a lot of what you need right on your computer, if the restaurants you have interest in put their wine list on-line. Look at certain types and origin combinations that recur to use as your 'benchmarks' (Italian entry level chianti is on a lot of lists, or Aussie cabernet/shiraz/merlot blends), and the engines at winezap or wineaccess will tell you a range of retail outlets and prices. As others have noted, markups within the same list will vary; I usually assume the worst (2.5-3x) and consider whether the food is interesting first, then see what wines match well within my budget. Newer places with reasonable prices are of course the ones that usually have the most limited lists, but then their corkage fee is often reasonable. cheers

        1. Veuve Clicquot, Matanzas Creek Chardonnay, Kistler Chardonnay (les Noisetiers), Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet...

          These wines seem to be on every list. They will usually let you know what the standard mark-up is.

          I find that obscure wines often have lower mark-ups since they are relatively harder to sell. I always check the price on Veuve, but buy less well known Champagne. I hate to pay for the marketing budget of big Champagne houses.