HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Is it reasonable to expect good wine for $6 a glass? [moved from Manhattan board]

  • h

A new wine bar opened in my neighborhood (not Manhattan). It was lovely -- architecture, food, service, everything but the wine. We ordered several of the $6 and $7 glasses and to our surprise, they were uniformly awful. They just tasted like thin, harsh, bad cheap wine. The owner basically said he knew they weren't very good but that he couldn't afford to offer good wine for that price (and he wanted to have something inexpensive on the menu). We tried a $9 glass and it was better but just ok.

Fast forward to last night, when I went to Morrell's in rockefeller center. we ordered the cheapest glasses on the menu ($8) and they were utterly delicious. And that's got to be one of the most expensive locations in the city. I don't get it.

I want to like the little local joint in my neighborhood, and I'm also genuinely curious about how this stuff works. maybe an established place like morrell is able to order lots of great wine at a good price, or can count on volume or something. it's hard to believe that anyone would open a wine bar and get everything right but the wine, so i'm thinking maybe it's a lot tougher than it seems to pull off great wine by the glass at a decent price in this town. any thoughts from people in the business?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Most restaurants at least double up on the price of wine...some triple up. $6/glass = $48 bottle. Even if they are tripling up, there are lots and lots of great choices at $16.

    Personally, I would chalk it up to lack of knowledge.

    12 Replies
    1. re: vinouspleasure

      Sorry to be thick. Can you explain your math? I thought a bottle would get you about 5 5-ounce glasses (certainly 8 glasses would be quite small), giving you a $30 restaurant price bottle, or a $10 retail (assuming a 300% mark-up), and, well, utterly delicious $10 wine isn't so easy to come by. Yes, it's out there, but not too many restaurants go to the trouble to find it. Again, sorry if my math stinks; I blame the wine.
      Having said all that, I agree--this guy sounds unknowledgeable, which is unforgiveable enough in a wine bar, but also a bad business-man: why carry something you know isn't good? I sure wouldn't go back.

      1. re: jasmurph

        You fine vinouspleasure' math is flawed beyond comprehension. It is very difficult to find good wines by the glass for under 10.00 in major metro areas. the rents etc force a higer markup than in most suburbs.

        1. re: Winemark

          Not true. For example, last week I ate at NOPA, a popular new San Francisco restaurant. With the exception of one sparkling wine, all of their wine by the glass are under $10. We tried five and they were all good.

          xarelo-macabeu-parellada cava nv avinyo 6.5
          Chardonnay Brut Zero "Valentino" Piedmont 1998 Mazoni 12
          Poulsard Rose Bugey Cerdon NV Renardat 8

          white & rose
          Hondarrabi Zuri-Beltza Getariako Txakolina 2005 Amestoi 6.5
          Pinot Blanc Nahe Anheuser 6.25
          Grechetto "Poggio Della Costa" Umbria 2005 Sergio Mottura 7
          Viognier-Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc Languedoc 2004 L'Hortus 6.75
          Chardonnay "Les Chenes" Saint-Veran 2004 J-P Auvigue 8
          Rose Cabernet Sauvignon "Rose It's Okay!" Napa 2005 Vinum 6.5

          Pinot Noir "Red Label" Sonoma 2004 Roessler 9
          Monastrell Jumilla 2004 Juan Gil 6.5
          Blaufrankisch Burgenland 2005 Neckenmarkt 7
          Lagrein Alto Adige 2004 Thurnhoff 7.75
          Cinsault-Carignan-Syrah "Naick 3" Languedoc 2003 O'Loustal Blanc 8
          Sangiovese Grosso Rosso di Montalcino 2002 Casanuova della Cerbaie 8.5
          Syrah Washington State 2003 McCrea 9.75


          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            While you are correct on point I must defend myself by saying San Fransisco is the most wine concentric city in the nation so while rents are stupidly high I would expect aggressive pricing in that town

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Robert, you're going to make me cry. One of the things I miss most about SF is the ability to get a glass of wine for under $10 wherever I'm eating dinner. In LA, most glasses are well over $10, and when those glasses come with names like Gallo, Smoking Loon, and Kenwood I want to jump off a cliff.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                The wholesale prices in L.A. are surely about the same as in SF. Sounds like a business opportunity.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  yeap, they inflate these prices in NYC too. These glasses would run $8-$14 vs $6.5-$10. And given the retail bargains we can get here, you know they could charge less. Especially infuriating after drinking fantastic wines in Spain for 1.5-3.5 euros a glass (with sales tax included and tipping custom is much lower!!).

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    That's absolutely true about Spain. We can get good wine for 2 euros (about $2.50) a glass here and great wine for 3.5 euros a glass. But the entire restaurant business (and business economy in general) is structured differently here, with much lower profits expected.

                    There is also a lot more competition than in any US city and I believe that wineries also sell their wine at a low cost to many wine bars for promotional purposes. Many times, I drink a glass of Priorat or another high-end wine at a bar for about the same cost that it would retail for at a bodega (meaning that the glass costs the same as an equal fraction of the retail bottle).

                  2. re: Winemark

                    Two quick points:
                    1. I agree that it's hard to find good wines by the glass for under $10 in big cities. My point was that it would take a $10 bottle of wine with a 200% mark-up (surely reasonable, even with high rents) to offer a $6 glass of wine.
                    2. here are some restaurants in Manhattan that have at least one wine per glass for less than or equal to $10: Blue Hill, Wallse, wd-50, hearth, the modern, inoteca, and all the batali palces have quartinos (call it 1.666 glasses) for close to if not less than $10. It seems like it's mainly the 4 stars that refuse to entertain the propsect of a good glass of wine for less than $12.

                  3. re: jasmurph

                    Every restaurant has their own formula for marking up wines on the list and by-the-glass.

                    Traditional RETAIL markup was a 50 percent markup for a 33.3 percent profit (i.e.: if a bottle cost the retail store $10, it was marked up 50% and sold for $15; the $5 profit is 1/3 of the purchase price).

                    RESTAURANTS on the other hand would often double or even triple the retail price. It's largely a matter of what the traffic will bear -- some use a sliding scale with harder-to-get wines getting marked up more than more common wines, etc., etc., etc. When it comes to a by-the-glass "formula," some restaurants use a "bar markup" -- much higher than wine list markups -- others use a more "creative" formula.

                    Years ago, I was the wine buyer/bar manager for a small wine bar & restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA. Our "formula" was to charge a flat $5 over whatever the suggested retal price was for bottles off our wine list. (That $15 retail bottle above would be $20 on our list; a bottle that sold at retail for $50 would be $55 on our list, and so on.) The more expensive the bottle was, the "cheaper" is was on our list. As a result, we sold lots of high-end bottles.

                    To calculate our by-the-glass prices was simple. Bottles off the wine list are subject to sales tax, so we would take the wine list price and add tax to it. We poured four-ounce glasses, and so would get six 4 oz. glasses per bottle (a regular 750ml bottle being 25.4 ounces). So we would take the wine list price, add tax, and divide by five. Thus, if a bottle was -- let's say -- $35 on our list, we would add sales tax ($37.97), divide by five ($7.59) and round it up to the closest nickel. We'd sell that wine for $7.60.

                    That bottle would have cost us $20 (presuming no discounts). Off the list, we'd make $15 gross profit. Selling six glasses for $7.60 each, we'd make $25.60 in gross profit.

                    But our restaurant was the definite EXCEPTION to the standard rule-of-thumb.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      This is off the main topic but interesting to me. I spent a total of 30 years working in the retail/wholesale apparel trade (and selling to the country's largest traditional department stores). In your example, the 33.3% (percent gross profit) was always referred to as the 'mark-up'. It was only when I would get into discussions with people outside that trade that they used the same term to refer to the 50% added on to the cost. In academic texts, the 50% is generally referred to as 'mark-ON' (literally the amount added ON to the cost, as a% of the retail), though mark-on is not a term I ever heard in the trade.

                      Certainly not important to the discussion, but I'd be interested in how other people/trades use these terms. Likely needs to move to 'not about food' but this whole topic has used retail math so much that I thought it would be a better place to ask.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        It's an interesting thought, albeit perhaps a bit arcane. ;^)

                        "Mark-up" has the same origin, I'm sure, as "mark-on," and probably stems from something like "the amount you mark UP the price" (versus the amount added on to the price).

                        The only change I've noticed on the profit side I've noticed is that "profit margin" has, in more corporate circles anyway, been replaced by "beginning gross profit" (BGP). So, in theory, the 33% BG may -- after all costs (labor, rent, utilities, etc.) are deducted, may yield only 3-5 percent actual profit at the end of the day.

                2. Otto seems to be able to pull off great wine for not too much money, on top of it their wine glasses are incredible! They have quartinos for as low as 8$ and it is a bit more than a glass. I think they have the cheapest, and the best wine, in town...if you like Italian that is.

                  I heard about a restaurant in Montreal, a nice restaurant not a dive, who sells the wine glasses for a fifth of the price of the bottle. That means that if the bottle is 40$, the glass is 8$. I thought that was a great idea when I heard about it.

                  1. Turnover may be an issue. Obviously they want to be able to sell enough glasses to use up the bottle before it gets stale. Although this is more of an issue in less heavily-trafficked restaurants -- probably not usually a big problem for a lot of places in NYC given the usual volume of diners, unless they've got a lot of wines available by the glass, meaning that only a few customers order each glass on any given night. (Although if it IDs itself as a wine bar, then that's possible.) Thus, it's less of a problem for a place like Morrell's.

                    Also, wine and beer are extremely profitable and are seen as a good way for a restaurant to make up for its losses in other areas. But generally, yeah, I'd say you should at LEAST be able to get a glass of decent table wine for $6 or $7 and something really good for $9. But it requires some knowledge, and half-decent rates of turnover.

                    Yeah, restaurants frequently charge triple the store price for a bottle of wine.

                    Oh, and HHH, I think you should post a message to the applicable board (e.g. Outer Boroughs) telling people not to order the $6 or $7 glasses of wine at that particular place, if it's that bad. That sounds strange.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ike

                      Just for the record, there usually isn't a specific relationship between what a drinking establishment and a retail establishment charges... We're all using the wholesale price as our base to work from, but most of us aren't looking to see what our list is retailing for, because it's not the same thing... glassware, staffing, furnishings etc... all factor in, plus retail businesses always sell the entire bottle, and they don't incur waste from opened bottles etc... it apples & oranges... A reasonable markup in a bar/restaurant will always be higher than a reasonable markup in a retail establishment, due to the added value...

                    2. If they need to hit a $6/glass price point, they need to work harder to find good values in that range.

                      1. hello, don't know manhattan wine stores well, but is the morrell's you refer to connected to the well-established, fairly prestigious retailer? I'd expect them to come up with a good 8 buck glass. I think anyone who gave it serious attention and time could find good bottles that retailed for $8-10 (less to a restaurant/bar) which would yield a decent margin at six a glass. Have you tried any of the wines imported by Eric Solomon in that price niche? cheers

                        1. Well,
                          As somewhat of a wine Nerd..I know you can find fantastic wines around $8-$12 "cost" simply the owner needs to take the cost say $10 and times it by 3 = $30. devide by "5 glasses" and you get $6 per glass and a good to great wine at that.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Eddie Nickell

                            Seriously, A reasonable pour is 4 to a bottle, not 5. Please stop assuming the price is calculated on a 5 pour...

                            Plus there is so much waste... a good winebar allows tasting before choosing, and with all new staff(regardless of how experienced) there is the learning curve of the pour, because glassware differs, so often getting the full 4 glass value from the bottle doesn't happen. Divide your same 30 by 4, and you have a 7.50 glass.

                          2. I don't order wine out that often but if you spend $6 for a glass of wine, you should expect a good glass. There are plenty of "Hidden gems" in the wine industry just as there are plenty of over rated wines. My local bar has a couple of "House wines" that are quite good and at a good price per glass. I've also ordered the house at a lot of other places that have been at the very least, good.
                            If this guy is offering a glass of wine at a wine bar that he himself knows is "Not very good" you should look for another place. Never mind wine, why would anyone offer something in their restaurant that isn't up to snuff. You can find a good value in anything if you look.


                            1. T Cook's, a top-rated restaurant at the Royal Palms hotel in Phoenix, offers "five for five" at lunch. In other words, the restaurant selects five wines and offers them for five dollars per glass at lunch. The prices are probably half of what they would be for a glass of the same wine at dinner.

                              I would assume the logic behind this is something like the following: Most diners are reluctant to indulge in a glass of wine with lunch. Nevertheless, if they are tempted with a bargain, they may decide to take a walk on the wild side and order a glass. The restaurant may not make as much profit as with the same wine served at dinner, but it does get a chance to highlight certain wines, create positive impressions among customers, and increase the odds that customers who return for dinner will order the same wine again at the full price.

                              The logic has certainly worked on me. I've enjoyed a glass here and there during various lunches and have occasionally liked a wine so much that I remembered it when returning for dinner several weeks later. I normally skip wine at lunch, but at $5 per glass, it was hard to say no.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: silverbear

                                My best guess is that this is an illegal practice. Changing pricing during the same day is an inducement to drink. Typically illegal in most states.

                                1. re: Winemark

                                  I think this restaurant plays it straight, so either Arizona law is different or the same exact wine is not offered at two prices on the same day. My favorable memories inspired by the lunchtime wine specials may be of the winery, varietal, or the restaurant's wine program in general. Any of those might foster an appreciation that would make me more likely to order wine at full price in the evening.

                                  What about all those drink specials offered during happy hour at many bars? Would those be non-compliant in most states?

                                  1. re: Winemark

                                    There's certainly no law against it in California.

                                    1. re: Winemark

                                      So you're saying that in most states . . . happy hour is illegal? Another good reason not to leave Arizona!

                                      1. re: themis

                                        Happy hour is illegal in many states, my own Massachusetts included. I lived in AZ all through the '90's and was a wine director at a resort and I think I remember something regarding inducments to drink. I certainly could be wrong.

                                        1. re: Winemark

                                          I think I found the answer in the following report:


                                          According to the chart on pages 33-35, Arizona does outlaw some happy hour practices, including free additional servings and unlimited drinks, but does not ban reduced price drinks. California appears not to restrict happy hour practices at all, and Massachusetts appears to ban just about everything.

                                          The report was written in 2003, so of course there may have been some changes in the past three years.

                                          1. re: Winemark

                                            Is that known as the "Ted Kennedy Law " ?? I remember the good old days in NY with happy hours like .50 drafts, 3 for 1, and the famous "Drinkin' with Lincoln" which entitled you to drink as much cheap rot gut booze as possible for $5.

                                    2. Here's another example of a wine list (Pizzaiolo in Oakland, CA) that keeps the cost down by creative choices of lesser-known wines:

                                      S pa r k l i n g
                                      Lambrusco, Barbolini NV 7.00/28.00
                                      Prosecco di Valdobbiadene NV, Sorelle Bronca 9.00/36.00
                                      Pinot Noir, Carpené Malvolti NV 9.00/36.00
                                      Moscato d’ Asti, Traversa ’04 9.25/37.00

                                      Wh i t e
                                      Muscadet, Domaine de la Sénéchalière ’04 7.00/28.00*
                                      Pinot Gris, Oregon, A to Z ’05 8.00/32.00
                                      Roero Arneis, Tre Donne ’03 8.00/32.00
                                      Tocai Friulano, Collio, Livon ’04 9.00/36.00
                                      Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Hoffman-Simon, ’99 9.00/36.00
                                      Chardonnay, Domaine de Mouscaillo 10.00/40.00

                                      R o s e
                                      Corvina, Bardolino, Corte Gardoni ’05 6.00/24.00
                                      Nerello Mascalese, Sicily Tenuta delle Terre Nere ‘05 8.50/34.00
                                      Pinot Noir[sparkling], Carpené Malvolti NV 9.00/36.00
                                      Priorat, Odysseus ’05 10.00/40.00*

                                      R e d
                                      Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Martín Berdugo ’04 7.00/28.00
                                      Bibich Reserva, Croatia, Skradin ’04 8.00/32.00
                                      Dolcetto d’ Alba, Sottimano ’05 9.00/36.00
                                      Grénache & Mouvèdre, Côtes du Rhône, Domaine “La Garrigue” ’04 9.00/36.00
                                      Chianti Colli Senesi, San Giorgio a Lapi ’03 9.00/36.00
                                      Zinfandel, Dry Creek Estate, Unti ’03 10.00/40.00
                                      Montecucco,Tuscany, Montesalario ’02 10.50/42.00


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        You're right that a properly constructed wine list is a business opportunity in LA. I think the stars aren't aligned properly here though. People don't know as much about wine here, are much more into the "scene" at a restaurant (a la star sightings, going somewhere owned by a celebrity, etc.), don't drink wine as often as Bay Area people do when they go out, and it would never occur to them to not go somewhere just because there wouldn't be any wine available. So restaurants have no incentive to spend time properly researching a good list of lesser known affordable wines.

                                        Oh well, I can keep complaining about the bad wine lists and the lack of quality mid-range restaurants with entrees under $35, but I don't think anything's going to change any time soon. I'll just keep eating my home cooking and cheap ethnic food out.

                                      2. When a restaurant sells a glass of wine, they want to recoup their cost for that bottle in the first glass they sell. So, if you buy $6 glass of wine, you can usually expect that the wholesale price for that wine was about $4-$6.

                                        If a winery wants exposure for their wine in a by-the-glass program, but they know their wholesale price is too high, they may sweeten the deal by offering free wines to lower the wholesale cost. They're not going to do this for everyone, just the restuarants that would provide good exposure.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Ruby Louise

                                          Most wines that wholesale for $6 aren't good, but there are exceptions. Maybe not every restaurant has time to find them, but a wine bar should, if they want glasses at that point.

                                          1. re: Ruby Louise

                                            Your are right about restaurants paying for the whole bottle with the sale of one glass. A widely accepeted practice in the industry. If a manager/owner does his/her homework, and seeks out decent bottles at a good price, this works. As evidenced above, there are a multitude of lesser known wines out there that are great values. However most are too busy or too lazy or just not interested in establihing a wine friendly atmosphere. We are dealing with a mindset that doesn't think twice about charging $2.50 for iced tea.
                                            In Florida restaurants don't have the luxury of working directly with the winery. They work through wholesale distributors that may or may not pass quantity discounts on. They have their own agenda and some reps lack the knowledge or incentive to give good advice to restaurants.
                                            Oh well, I guess I just have to continue to settle for the $9 Ravenswood California Zin (if I'm lucky).
                                            On the other hand, I could eat more regularly at Bern's in Tampa and take advantage of their extensive wine list. Some 200 offered by the glass.

                                            1. re: Ruby Louise

                                              A 6 dollar glass of wine usually has a bottle cost of $6 - 8, not 4.00

                                            2. As the owner of a new winebar in Bklyn, and the former owner of a wine bar in San Francisco: First of all, 4 glasses to a bottle, not five... Second, San Francisco is different than most other regions in the country there is an abundance of wonderful wine available, at reasonable price points. As for NY, good wine is not cheap, and discounts only come when ordering multiple cases, very hard to do for little businesses. Furthermore, there are penalties for broken cases, for instance nicer wines i want on my list, but only buy 4 - 6 at a time rather than full cases, so i pay an extra 1 - 2 dollars each... Also, product is not cheaper because you are in a less expensive neighborhood, we pay the same whether in Redhook, or on Park Ave. The difference is that while our rent may be less (although rarely cheap...) Our traffic is less, and the spending power of our clients is generally less, but our product is never cheaper... so it's a challenge to try and provide quality product on a budget. Just be aware that the same 7.00 glass of wine generally costs the little offbeat neighborhood guy a bit more than the bigger Prime location guy... That said every place should be able to have a nice drinkable wine at 6 or 7 dollars...although I can't remember the last time paid under 9 in Manhattan for any wine good or otherwise...

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: monicabyrne1101

                                                You can't get a decent gruner veltliner, Vinho Verde, corvina, or vin de pays for $6 wholesale?

                                                Some of the best values I've found in the San Francisco area in the last couple of years came from warehouses in New York.

                                                1. re: monicabyrne1101

                                                  Have you considered buying wine in New Jersey? I live in NYC and work in NJ - and buy just about all my wine there. Northern NJ has several excellent liquor stores which offer better than decent wine selections and prices that are consistently better than anywhere I've been in the city (along with a standard 20% case discount from at least two of the vendors). Check out the Wine Library and Wine Legend. You might also consider Bottle King, which is not nearly as extensive as the other two but often has some excellent bargains. They're within driving distance of the city (probably an hour and change from Brooklyn).

                                                  1. re: Striver

                                                    Restaurants buy their wine wholesale and generally have it delivered.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      My bad! I'm not sure what I was thinking. Maybe it was that bottle of Rosenblum Rockpile the night before? :)

                                                    2. re: Striver

                                                      A restaurant or store can't do this. They can't buy wine at wholesale in one state and resell it at retail in another.

                                                      1. re: nja

                                                        The laws vary so much from state to state I hesitate to make categorical statements, but in most places restaurants and retailers can buy only from distributors in that state.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          A 750 ml bottle of wine basically has 25 ounces of wine. In the good bars and restaurants, they pour you a 6 oz. glass of wine, so 4 glasses make up a bottle. Thus, the cost for 4 glasses of wine should equal the cost of a bottle. If it costs more, then you might want to consider buying a whole bottle instead.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            It's true that restaurants' by-the-glass price is often a quarter of the bottle price (e.g. the excerpts from the Pizzaiolo list above), but I don't see how that relates to my post, or the discussion in general.

                                                      2. re: monicabyrne1101

                                                        Where is your wine bar in Brooklyn? I've been to quite a few that offer pretty boring overpriced wine. As a consumer of both expensive and cheap wine, there are hundreds of great economical wines out there. Otto is a good example of well selected wine at low prices (although you could also break the bank if you wanted too). I used to like Le Gamin (not at all a wine bar, and sadly, not there anymore) because they had about 12 wines, all by the glass, that ranged from $5 to $9, and an even mix of whites and reds. You always read that a wine's price doesn't necessarily have any relationship to its quality, but I don't think most people believe this. And when they do, its only to criticize an expensive yet boring wine. My main point, if I have one at all, is that I'm always upset when I go to a restaurant and see a few crappy overpriced glasses (Goats du roam is a particular punching bag of mine - I see if everwhere and its just plain bad) when I know that there are hundreds of good (not just passable) bottles of wine out there. Why don't I ever see something like Bodegas Nikeas at $6, or Los Planos, or even (and I'm sure people will all worked up over this) Kendall Jackson Chard. It was nice to see the Juan Gil (obviously I'm a fan of Spanish wines) in one of the other menu posts but there a many more. Or a good cheap Gruner like Sepp or Berger? It seems like the places where they get this right are much more expensive in general. Good wine doesn't have to be expensive, and the guy who told you that the cheap wine was not good but all he could get was simply wrong. May be its all his distributor offered but if you are a wine bar, look harder or find someone else.

                                                        1. re: michaelscully

                                                          The Le Gamin at 9th Ave/21st St has become Le Grainne Cafe and still has good, reasonably priced wines, although the $5 to $9 has become $7 to $10.
                                                          Las Ramblas on W 4th/Cornelia has nice Spanish wines at $7 to $9 a glass.
                                                          Both of these places have good value, less run-of-the-mill wines.

                                                      3. I ran upon this looking for something else. It is from UK but relates to subject.

                                                        But I still say costs and profits and formulas aside, it should still be reasonable to expect a decent glass of wine for $6 is the restaurantuer cares enough to do his/her homework.

                                                        1. Yeah, sure! It all depends of where you are, and more importantly, what bottles are open. A lot of times, if there's an open bottle of a decent wine, they'll sell you a glass rather than throw it out.


                                                          1. Here's another question. Would you send back a glass of wine that cost $6?
                                                            I would/have when is was obviously old. But if was just swill or generic jug wine, and I was desperate enough to buy it, I would take my lumps.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Wineman

                                                              If the wine is corked or oxidized or has some other noticeable defect, send it back. Price is irrelevant.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Absolutely. I think they would want to know.

                                                              2. re: Wineman

                                                                I ordered the cheapest (okay the ONLY ) wine by the glass yesterday and it was horribly anemic tasting. But, I drank it anyway as it was my fault for ordering it!


                                                              3. As a restauranteur or bar owner, you should be able to offer quality, highly drinkable wine anywhere in the country for six dollars a glass. Not great wine mind you, but certainly inoffensive to all but the snobbiest of palettes.

                                                                The real problem is that there is an (inexplicable and crass) attitude in this country that it is "OK" to jack up wine prices to a ridiculous extent. Hence, that six dollar glass is coming from, say, a six or seven dollar bottle, and at that price level good wine is simply difficult to come by. The typical price to quality ratio in the US vs. much of Europe (at least those regions with domestic wine production) is appalling.

                                                                Decent wine is not for drinkers to be gouged on for special occasions or those on expense accounts (an all too frequent US restauranteur attitude), rather it should be priced so as not to be a luxury good but an attainable part of everyday life. This is as it is viewed, fortunately, in much of Europe, and as it should be.

                                                                1. In defense of restaurants. The typical food costs are about 30% of the price of the dish. A restaurant aims at about 70% gross.
                                                                  So to apply this formula to wine more or less turns a $6 bottle at cost into a $6 glass, denpending on the pour. There is wiggle room in there but---I know I buy good, drinkable wine for $6 to $10 (there are some great values on the shelves from Spain to name just one source). Restaurants should do the same thing.

                                                                  1. Here's some more math: Assuming a 4-ounce pour (and this seems to vary greatly), there are 6 'glasses' in a bottle. At $6 you have a $36 bottle at bar selling price. If the bar is tripling their cost you are dealing with a $12 wholesale bottle, which translates to about $16-$18+ at most wineshop retail prices (possibly as low as $12 at a Costco or Trade Joe's margin). At 5 ounces per glass you're looking for what could be a <$10 bottle at Costco.

                                                                    You should be able to get some rather decent wine for that price, but not what experienced oenophiles would call great. As others have said, how close you'll get depends on the wine bar's taste level and access to the wine gems that are out there. AND to the experience, palate and willingness of the consumer.

                                                                    But............. as an owner of a retail wine shop that does wine tastings, I will tell you that most experienced wine drinkers are not easily satisfied by wines in that price level. From my experience, the comparison to 'good/great' wine fairs much better beginning at $20+ of wineshop retail.

                                                                    All that said.......I've sold $9 Zins that drink as well as $20+ Zins and $15 Bordeaux that compare well with $30+ wines. Finding them isn't always easy, but when you do it's time to back up the truck.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                                      Standard bottle markup in San Francisco is 2X undiscounted retail (3X wholesale); standard pour for still dry wines is five ounces; typical restaurant price for a glass is 1/4 the price of a whole bottle. So a wine that's $36 on the bottle list would be $9 on the glass list.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Exactly! Therefore --- If a merchant can buy a more than decent bottle of a Spanish Garancha for $4 (and he/she can) then it would not be unreasonable to expect that wine to sell for $3 by the glass. Which was the original question posed by HHH.

                                                                        1. re: Wineman

                                                                          In Manhattan you can get good garnacha for $6 a bottle retail?

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                            The wine store that I generally shop at in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida pays about $4 for a bottle of Garnacha de Fuego.(rated 89 by Parker) and sells it for $5. The undiscounted price is $7. It is a fairly widely available wine so I assume that that cost is available to merchants in the New York area. What they sell it for I don't know but using your formula or 3x wholesale for a wine list there would be a lot of wiggle room for the price of a glass. I know there is a difference in what a retailer pays and what a restaurant pays but even if the restaurant or wine bar pays $5 + per bottle, they still should be able to sell a glass for $6.

                                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          I don't disagree with the SF math at all. I think we're saying the same thing but differently.

                                                                          What determines the quality of the experience is the ability of the wine buyer to select the best TASTING wines for the money. But that's a very subjective thing, and can often be influenced by how in synch the buyer's palate is with the taster's. At every one of our tatsings we have people who absolutely love a specific wine and others who don't. It IS certainly possible to find good tasting wines at lower prices, though not everyone would like them.

                                                                      2. You can get a huge selection of good wines for less than $3 a glass at Italian wine bars. That it can't be done in America perhaps shows America's relatively poor wine culture. It may also be in part a result of harsh American liquor laws that prevent drinking on the sidewalk.

                                                                        Come to think of it, there was a place in Barcelona where we could get a bottle of good cava and a roquefort and foie gras sandwich for $6.

                                                                        1. I think it's already kind of crazy to spend $8-10/glass for just something pleasantly drinkable to have with dinner. There's a fun, local spot that has $4.00/glass night on Wednesdays for any wine by the glass on the menu. (Of course, that's in Chapel Hill, NC, not NYC)Fantastic deal and a nice, heavy pour. I had a yummy fume blanc that usually sells for $7.50/glass. The place was hopping last night. I don't think they were losing a lot of money.