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Feb 28, 2007 08:00 PM

Boston restaurants with low wine markups?

I did a bit for Boston's Weekly Dig a couple of weeks back on places whose food I like and that I think offer wines at pretty reasonable markups, focusing on fairly budget-friendly wines offered at some old favorites of mine: Silvertone, Taberna de Haro, Les Zygomates.

But I wonder what other Hounds think: what restaurants are the real bargain purveyors of wine in town, and not just in the budget price range?

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  1. I don't know about mark-ups / margins, but I have been to Bin 26 twice now and I do feel like their (extensive) wine list has a wonderful range of prices and their tasting/glass prices and array of options are great.

    1. lol, ok, i'll bite, but this is only a list of places in which i've actually dined. more than once. and it's late, so maybe i'll remember more later... ;)

      in cambridge, central kitchen, blue room and rendez-vous. over here, including the ones above, troquet, pigalle, eastern standard, franklin cafe, bouchee, sel de la terre, legal seafood, anthony's pier 4 (kinda). often these places have mark-ups of less than 2x. in the case of pier 4, they have some old gems bought long ago they simply just don't raise the price, and franklin and silvertone still only tack on about $10 or $15 on top of their cost.

      many of these menus have wines from areas or makers off the beaten path. a common mistake diners make is being afraid to ask about the list. these restaurants all are wine-centric and their staffs are well trained. the regions or varietals might be unfamiliar, but that often makes for a better value. ASK.

      1. I saw that this discussion started under the Radius thread.

        The last time I went to Radius I had a 2001 Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling. Incredible wine. Radius charged $85. I think the retail price is usually around $40 - $50 (the 2001 is more expensive than other years). That is totally inline with normal markups.

        The worst markups I've seen are at the Butcher Shop and at Rialto (before the change)---they charged $40 for a bottle of Blackstone Merlot (4x).

        I think Ten Tables has great prices, though on the lower end. EVOO had decent prices, same goes for the Blue Room. Teatro also does pretty well, especially considering the location and the owners.

        7 Replies
        1. re: DoubleMan

          retail vs. restaurant prices are apples and oranges.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I guess I'm not sure I understand this comment: how are retail vs restaurant prices apples and oranges? There's a wholesale price, a retail price (or range, since prices vary widely by outlet), and a restaurant price.

            Since consumers don't have access to the wholesale prices, nor can factor in the side deals that restaurant wine buyers can negotiate with wholesalers, what other basis might they use to determine whether a restaurant is marking up their wines modestly or egregiously?

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              i was hasty with that remark. but retailers also make deals, usually based on quantity orders. they have the storage space restaurants simply do not. prices go down significantly on 3-5-10 case drops. they can also buy an assortment from one importer to add up for multi-case deals. stores with several outlets, like blanchard's, get very significant discounts this way, and often pay much less than do on-premise accounts.

              that trimbach (yes, a stunner, i agree) was available on pre-arrival (a buyer guarantees purchase before the wine is released) at around $25, and for less than that if you bought multiple cases. of course no way of telling if either the store or radius took advantage of that.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I understand that different companies can get vastly different deals on wine that may or may not be reflected in their offering price. The actual % markup a restaurant charges above what they paid for me doesn't really matter to me as much as the % markup over the price that I can purchase the wine at.

                I think this thread isn't about the actual markup the restaurant charges but rather the difference between the restaurant price and the regularly available retail price.

                1. re: DoubleMan

                  actualy the op's question was about restaurants' mark-ups. but if you feel like this is a good rule for you, fair enough.

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                At some of these places e.g. Troquet, it might be more relevant to compare the prices of certain parts of their winelist to auction rather than wholesale or retail prices, as some of those wines (e.g. Screaming Eagle Cabs, DRC La Tache, Chateau Margaux etc...) of the appropriate vintage aren't easily found at wholesale or retail outlets.

            2. re: DoubleMan

              Speaking of Trimbach, I remember seeing a '97 Clos St Hune Riesling on the Blue Room winelist for under $200, ditto Bouchee.

            3. Troquet has some reasonable markups..also great at food/wine pairings.

              1. I second that silvertones fits the bill. The Franklin does a great job too with keep the list very good and very inexpensive.