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What is a reasonable mark-up on wine?

After almost 6 years in Houston, we finally made it to DaMarco's for dinner last Saturday. The food and service were both excellent, and I felt that for the quality and quantity, that the food was reasonably priced. With dinner we also had a lovely bottle of 2004 Vietti Barolo Castiglione for $125. When we got home, I was curious to find out more about this wine and online learned that it retails for about $40. I expect to pay 100% mark-up wine, but I really think that 200+% is excessive. Any opinions on this?

 
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  1. While I personally feel that anything more than 100% mark-up on retail - especially for wines 5 years old or less - is excessive, in the end it is the restaurants choice to set price and my choice to agree to those prices or not.

    For older wines, I am more lenient, as I can appreciate that the restaurant has either purchased the wine recently at a higher retail price, or they have properly stored / cellared the wine for years / decades.

    I think it is the fact that the dollar number gets to be quite high that makes people upset with wine. For example if a $100 retail bottle was listed for $500, there would be complaints... the sentiment is that being charged $5 for every $1 worth of wine is excessive. Yet the $5 pint of beer that costs less than $1 is perfectly acceptable, as is the $10 martini with $1-2 worth of alcohol in it.

    So what is it people? There are very few, if any, threads complaining about beer / liquor mark-ups, but a plethora of threads on excessive wine prices. Is it the % or the raw $$$ increase that is the problem?

    19 Replies
    1. re: newJJD

      So what is it people? There are very few, if any, threads complaining about beer / liquor mark-ups, but a plethora of threads on excessive wine prices. Is it the % or the raw $$$ increase that is the problem?

      I could not agree with you more!!! No one ever complains about the $10.00 martini or the steak that costs $15.00 but is $45.00 on the menu, and more often than not is not cooked properly (I digress). But wine is fair game.

      To the OP-What you paid for the wine in the restaurant is quite reasonable. Please remember, in some states retailers pay LESS for wine than a restaurant (TX is one of them). Retailers have the ability to purchase in bulk, where a restaurant usually purchases a case or less incurring more charges (delivery, broken case charge). I encourage you to do a search on the Wine board for this topic.

      1. re: chickstein

        There's a component of any markup that, aside from profit margin, accounts for service, glassware, etc. which perhaps explains why most people don't have a problem with paying $5 for a $1 beer. It costs a certain amount to serve any beverage (even if we get tap water for free), which is why reasonable corkage for BYOB is also seen as, well, reasonable. Plus, yes, it is easier to ignore when its $1 vs. $5 as compared to $100 vs. $500.

        My personal rule of thumb is that anything at or under 2x retail is reasonable, anything over 3x retail is a ripoff (unless it is very rare, hard to find, etc.), and most things in between I will pay but with increasingly less joy as it works its way up that scale.

        This one in particular? Wine-searcher does indeed have multiple retailers in multiple states selling this particular bottle at around $40, so pinotho, OP is not mistaken (though that doesn't necessarily mean you can get it in TX at that price). And it's a current release and not incredibly hard to find. Probably more on the ripoff than the reasonable side of things.

        1. re: newJJD

          I think it's the perception of "owning" the bottle of wine. I can go to any number of local winehouses and pick up the exact commodity for far less than what the restaurant will charge, so in the mind of the consumer, "why should I pay 3x for something I can get at BevMo for x..." Also the commitment to buying a bottle of wine - even the lower tier stuff - can easily be the cost equivalent of a meal or two or three. An average bottle of beer or a mixed drink is more easily justifiable given its price range relative to a bottle of wine...

          1. re: bulavinaka

            >>> An average bottle of beer or a mixed drink is more easily justifiable given its price range relative to a bottle of wine... <<<

            How do you figure?

            1. re: zin1953

              I'm not saying it is... I think this is the perception of the consumer at large. Most can stomach paying up to $10 for some kind of alcoholic beverage. A whole bottle of wine is a much larger investment. I know you know wines and enjoy them with vigor. I think the majority of folks don't fall in that category. To this group, a glass will suffice. A bottle or a wine flight? No way...

              1. re: bulavinaka

                It has nothing to do with MY enjoyment of wine.

                If you look around a restaurant during dinner -- at least when I look around the majority of restaurants that I dine at -- a majority of tables have a bottle of wine on them; indeed, a sizable majority, at that. Some parties of four-to-eight people may even go through 2-3 bottles of wine during dinner.

                Yeah, OK -- not the neighborhood pizza parlor or Sizzler, but this isn't limited to the Gary Danko's, French Laundry's, or Chez Panisse-type of establishments either.

                1. re: zin1953

                  I need to quit slummin' it and start going to your favorites... Obviously we live in two different worlds...

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Truthfully, though, that has nothing to do with Jason's original point, which is, (i think) that a lot of consumers are being duped into paying too much for wine at restaurants. This is due in large part to the assumption on the part of most upmarket restos that most folks are not going to show the due diligence that the OP did, and, as such, are not going to recognize the disparities inherent on many winelists. As someone in the business, I think it's a shame that restaurants, esp. those in big cities, take advantage of their customers in this fashion.

                    1. re: Pigloader

                      I'm not sure that either of us contend the issue of high mark-ups. My point is that the average consumer - in this case Joe Restaurant Diner - has a price limit on his alcoholic beverage expenditures. My experience has been that the $10 area is the threshold for the average diner - and this is reflected in the prices that the majority of restaurants price these products at. Again, investing in a mixed drink, a beer, a glass of wine, that's an easy-do for most. Investing in a bottle of wine has a psychological barrier. Owning the bottle to enjoy during a meal is perceived as a major investment to the majority of diners. For some, it's an issue of paying two to three times retail. Many folks feel the "admission price" for enjoying a good wine that would run $40-$60 retail has a poor "return on investment" when a restaurant will easily charge over $100 for the same bottles. Many diners will compare the price of a bottle of wine to the cost of their meal and if $(wine) > $(meal), many bow out of the proposition. The same simple economic model applies to shipping commodities. Many see the cost of shipping to be a key factor as to whether or not they should purchase a given product. If the cost of shipping is anywhere within the range of the cost of the product, many will balk at the proposition. Other will choose to complete the purchase because to them - for what ever reason - they perceive value in the proposition. For others, it's an issue of the table being able to consume the entire bottle(s). For many, it's knowing enough about wines to choose the right one for their meals. The whole culture of wine, particularly in restaurants, is cult-like in the perception of many - kinda looking from the outside in.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Not nit-picking, just attempting to have a dialogue . . . .

                        >>> My experience has been that the $10 area is the threshold for the average diner - and this is reflected in the prices that the majority of restaurants price these products at. <<<

                        OK, so let me ask you again: you can easily buy a 750ml bottle of Beefeater's Gin for $16.99 (Beverages, and more!). You don't think $10 for a Martini is a ripoff???

                        In some places, you might be able to find Beefeater's for less; in others, more. At $16.99 for 750ml, the cost per ounce is 66.9¢ Again, this is retail, not wholesale. OK, two ounces of gin, rounded off, is $1.34.

                        Cinzano, Martini & Rossi -- you can easily find a 750ml bottle of Dry Vermouth for $6.99. That equals 27.5¢ an ounce, and you use far less than an ounce in a martini.

                        How much is one -- oh, let's be generous, TWO olives???

                        And $10 is not a rip-off???

                        >>> Again, investing in a mixed drink, a beer, a glass of wine, that's an easy-do for most. Investing in a bottle of wine has a psychological barrier. Owning the bottle to enjoy during a meal is perceived as a major investment to the majority of diners. <<<

                        I've never heard anyone . . . EVER . . . phrase it that way. You don't own a bottle of wine, you drink it. You're not "investing" in a bottle of wine in a restaurant, any more than you are "investing" in that entrée that you order in the same restaurant. Can it be re-sold for a profit somewhere? Will that soufflé increase in value if you hold it for several years?

                        Perhaps part of the problem is that you're looking at it from a financial perspective, rather than one of enjoyment. (You a broker?) When I look at a wine list -- OR, for that matter, pull a wine out for dinner at home -- I look first and foremost at what wine will compliment the food we will be eating. Secondly, and clearly this doesn't apply to opening a bottle at home, I look at the price(s) and find one at a price I am comfortable paying.

                        And what is all this talk about shipping, and what does this have to do with anything?!?!? I'm confused. Obviously.

                        * * * * *

                        >>> For others, it's an issue of the table being able to consume the entire bottle(s). <<<

                        You can take the bottle home -- at least in the State of California. This will, however, vary by state, and there is no doubt that this IS a consideration for some. This is why there are half-bottles (375ml instead of 750ml), and why there are wines available by-the-glass. This, too, will vary according to state law.

                        >>> The whole culture of wine, particularly in restaurants, is cult-like in the perception of many - kinda looking from the outside in. <<<

                        I find the whole culture of commodities, securities, and investments to be cult-like, with terminology deliberately selected to obscure, confuse, and mystify the entire "World of Wall Street."

                        C'est la vie . . . all I know is that I've spent a really long time trying as best as I can to DE-mystify the world of fermented grape juice in the classes that I teach . . . .

                        No one I know IN the wine trade seriously wants to preserve the "mysterious" aspect of wine. The more "mysterious" wine is, the more people do NOT drink it. And how does that benefit the wine trade?

                        In 2005, the per capita consumption of wine in the United States was 8.69 liters (2.295 gallons). A case of wine (12/750ml bottles) is 9.0 liters, or 2.377 gallons. The U.S. ranks 60th on the list. Some of the countries ahead of the U.S. include Canada, where the per capita consumption is 10.48 liters; Ireland, 14.03 liters; New Zealand, 16.68; Uruguay, 23.31; Italy, 48.16; France, 55.85;

                        See http://www.wineinstitute.org/files/Pe...

                        Clearly, the US has a long way to go . . .

                        Cheers,
                        Jason

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Dialogue is what it's all about... :) I think we're running along in tangents quite a bit, and then bump hips here and there. I agree with your premise on the Beefeaters/martini example - I never questioned it for that reason. In fact I agree with most of what you say as I tried to imply in my response to Pigloader. My premises are based on the Typical Consumer - probably up to the 80th percentile of restaurant consumers in the US if I had to make a rough guess. It's not a matter of the COST structure of the drink - it's what is within the reasonable $ limits of what the AVERAGE diner considers to be an attainable PRICE. Cost does not typically equal price or restaurants would be out of business. If we took the same logic that you are using in the martini reference to other dining experiences, sushi should be pocket change, and many of the better salads should be on the dollar menu at McDonald's. Besides, most folks are willing to pay ten bucks for a martini because unlike bringing your own wine, I don't think there is a culturally accepted practice of bringing your own martini or the fixing to make your own at tableside. Maybe I'm being too subtle at times or too analytical at other times. And no, I'm not a Wall-Streeter - don't know if that's a back-handed compliment :). But we all make value judgements on everything we do and this ultimately pans out in decisions made in what restaurants we choose and what we decide to enjoy at those chosen places.

                          If I am the first in the world to phrase it as "owning a bottle," then I get points for originality. This refers to buying a whole bottle versus a glass or two. Buying the bottle typically is a much greater $$ commitment than buying a glass, even at the restos with lower pricepoints. It also obviously allows for less variety or uneven pairing if everyone at the table isn't on the same board food-wise. It has nothing to do with long-term investing. It's a value judgement that one makes as to whether it will be worth the much higher price of a whole bottle of wine (plus the price of sommelier services, etc., if applicable at whatever the place is). Furthermore, if I don't have my mobile phone version of Wine Spectator archives available, I probably won't be familiar with many of the resto's choices - buying a whole bottle of something I'm not sure about and knowing I'm paying high markup on it leaves a big question mark on my forehead. I think your view of what a meal entails is very plain to you, but otherworldly to many.

                          I can enjoy a good meal like most folks - but I, like most folks don't have a lot of money to throw at places like those that you mentioned in the Bay area or in LA. Those that you list are destination/special occasion places for me personally. For those (like you it appears) who frequent places in that category of restaurant, yes - wine is an integral part for the majority of patrons at places of that caliber. You and others frequent places like that because aside from being able to afford to regularly dine at places like those, wine is a given. I think your perception (especially now that I know you teach wine classes) is very different from Joe-Average Consumer. This category of restaurants in your lists is considered by most to be in the upper echelon of dining experiences which translates into high-dollar dining. These are places that most have a hard time justifying the price of a meal, let alone a whole bottle or two. Again - I'm not talking about those that fall within the 81st to 100th percentile of diners who are far more demanding in terms of dining and financially capable - I'm talking about the majority of diners who can afford a $10 drink. Those that dine at places like those that you mention are typically not affected by price for the most part. Whether they spend $50, $100, $150, or even higher per person - particularly if a $80+ bottle or two is on the tab, it's of little consideration to them as they are willing to spend that for a great dining experience - most likely because they have a much higher level of disposable income or at least have enough to afford their dining habits and cut back elsewhere.

                          OMG - you imply that I'm a Wall-Streeter again! HUFF - WHY I NEVER!! ;)

                          I'm far from being a wine afficianado, and I intend no snobbery in that remark. Wine is truly a whole other category particularly when it comes to dining. It's one of those things that is a combination of science, art and a little bit of luck sprinkled with the dust gathered from the wings of angels. Again, this is second nature to you. And "De-mystifying" old grape juice in a bottle is great, but your angle on what is a dining experience and how wine plays into it is far more unique, matter-of-fact and specialized than most. As much as you may be attempting to demystify this great tradition, maybe your perspective focuses on the enjoyment aspect a lot more than the real financial consideration of wine's superb yet potentially costly proposition that most consider it to be in the restaurant environment which is fine for you - in fact, more power to you! My reference to wine culture in restaurants being cult-like to many is not to say that all wine-heads are snobs and that only the privileged should partake in it. To the contrary - everyone in the wine world wishes all would partake (just in the lesser vintages and save the best for them ;)). It is the average consumer who is at fault for not trying to learn more about wine culture and giving it a more serious try, as your stats point out. And that is another reason why so many avoid the whole situation of wine by the bottle in restaurants. Sommelier - how do you spell that? Decant? Wine flight? WTF? Pazzz... Sincerely, Joe-Average Consumer

                          I can appreciate a good barolo or shiraz with my steak - but not at Cut or Wolfgang's. "Owning" a bottle of Dead Arm shiraz (there - I said it again) for a great steak meal at home is an easy-do for me. Paying $50 times whatever a resto decides to further mark up that same bottle is a different story. I guess I fall somewhere below that 81st percentile that I referred to earlier. Oh well, that's life... uh - chest luh vy... ;)

                          Chin Chin,
                          Bula

                    2. re: bulavinaka

                      OK, let me rephrase . . . I have no idea where you live, but judging from the number of posts on the LA board, I'll guess you live somewhere in the greater Los Angeles mondo-metropolitan area.

                      So, whenever I eat at Campanille, Luques, Hatfield's, Valentino's, Michael's, Melisse, Wilson (the list goes on) . . . "a majority of tables have a bottle of wine on them; indeed, a sizable majority, at that. Some parties of four-to-eight people may even go through 2-3 bottles of wine during dinner."

                      Cheers,
                      Jason

                    3. re: zin1953

                      Zin, I feel your enjoyment of wine has just about everything to do with this issue... No one in their right mind is willing to pay for anything if their is no perceived value in it...

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        >>> I feel your enjoyment of wine has just about everything to do with this issue... <<<

                        It doesn't. My 35 years of being in the wine trade does, but I'm not about to convince you of the difference.

                        >>> No one in their right mind is willing to pay for anything if their is no perceived value in it... <<<

                        Which is why I won't pay $10 for a martini when I can make one that is as good or better at home . . .

                        Which is why I won't pay $40 for a steak when I can make one that is as good or better at home . . .

                        * * * OK, to be fair: "won't" (as in "never") is an exaggeration; "rarely" is more accurate. * * *

                        Which is why I DO go to restaurants which either do a better job than my wife and I can do at home, or prepare dishes we cannot do at home . . .

                        Which is why I DO buy wine off wine lists when they are NOT overpriced, and don't when they are . . .

                        And so on . . .

                        Cheers,
                        Jason

                        1. re: zin1953

                          You're right - I'm not convinced. Being in this type of industry for 35 years I feel flows directly from your passion for this subject - if it didn't, masochism is the buzzword! You state your priorities, and that is proof enough to me that you do understand the concept of value, but seem to refute what others see as their concept of value. And I have my priorities like you and anyone else. DIFFERENT, yes, but I know my priorities better than anyone else as you do yours.

                          As a general rule, I refuse to pay what I consider ransom to any restaurant that feels they can hold a bottle hostage, and is only willing to relinquish it for some amount that I personally feel is out of line. If I had the depth of knowledge 1/10 that of yours, I could probably make far better decisions on whether they are holding a bottle hostage, or are actually giving that bottle a lot of TLC and that the price is fair. Unfortunately, I can only go off of what little I may know and coupling that with relatively inconsistant experiences with sommeliers (maybe my bad for not choosing the right restos or properly conveying my desires but that's a whole different subject), it's just a lot better of a decision for ME personally to order by the glass. The amount of information relating to wines that passes through your brain in one minute is probably more than I can ever hope to accumulate in the time that I'm willing to attribute to what I consider to be a growing curiosity. And I think maybe that is why some of the other posters and I seem to be at odds with some of your views. Pardon my assertions but I do sense that your depth of knowledge and emersion into this area may mute your to understanding that most have a balance of priorities and values on this general subject that are influenced by factors that are far different than the ones that influence yours. And again, based on the level of restos that you visit - I'm guessing on a very regular basis - what is average wining and dining to you is definitely not the same for me. In fact, from this perspective, I N V U! :)

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            I have no problem with what people profess to see (or not see) as "value." But I would like to UNDERSTAND how one gets to that point.

                            I readily admit, to continue with this example, that my knowledge of what Beeferater Gin costs affects my perception of value in a restaurant or bar. But I deliberately used the retail price (rather than wholesale), so that my knowledge is identical to every other patron of a restaurant or bar.

                            I deliberately have not used (e.g.) the cost of beef, because I have no idea what a restaurant pays for their meats.

                            The markups on bar drinks across the board is substantially higher than restaurant wine lists. I find that far more offensive to my wallet than the majority of the markups I find on wine lists. But then again, I find most of the wines in the marketplace today to be outrageous at RETAIL! Perhaps that's why a) I may have a slight ability to find value on most wine lists, and b) I find wine list prices to be less offensive, but only by degree. In other words, a wine list price is merely the insult that's added to the injury that the retail price causes in the first place . . .

                            Let me hasten to add there are wine lists where I find the pricing to be not merely absurd or outrageous, but flat-out obscene! This is why I often bring my own wine to the restaurant. I willingly pay corkage (see the next paragraph), and I willingly share with the sommelier/waiter and the chef, if they are interested.

                            Indeed, corkage is an issue I have much more trouble with than outrageously priced wines. After all, you don't have to pay the outrageous price if you can bring in your own wine. But corkage has increased from the $5-8 range to as much as $35-50, even $75! THAT is obscene, and totally without reason.

                            The restaurant has the right to a profit. I do not deny that, nor would I. But they also have no idea what wine I may bring in, or -- if denied the ability to BYO, what wine I might buy. My theory has long been that corkage should be a reasonable flat rate OR, at the most, should be equivalent to the profit made on the least expensive bottle. So if Cache Phloe Cellars ________ is on the wine list for $32, and the restaurant realizes a $20 profit on that sale, corkage should be no more than $20.

                            I have no problem with that. It makes sense. To me.

                            But I don't understand where restaurants restrict corkage to, say, two bottles per party. A party of two, a party of four, of twelve -- makes no difference, you can bring in two bottles and no more. That's ludicrous!

                            >>> Pardon my assertions but I do sense that your depth of knowledge and emersion into this area may mute your to understanding that most have a balance of priorities and values on this general subject that are influenced by factors that are far different than the ones that influence yours. <<<

                            There's nothing to pardon, if I actually thought that was true. But your sentence above, along with your assertion that "based on the level of restos that you visit - I'm guessing on a very regular basis" -- well, let's just say it feels as though you have me spending 3-4 nights a week at places like the French Laundry, and buying bottles of wine on a regular basis that are $100 and more!

                            Nothing is farther from the truth.

                            As I always said about my time in the wine trade, "You don't make a lot of money, but you eat and drink really well." But I'm not in the wine trade anymore. I retired from that, and I now work at a job that pays me less than the 2006 US household median income level. In other words, I am far from wealthy, and I need to watch what I spend in order to make ends meet.

                            I don't deny it may be easier for me to walk into a wine shop and find a great bottle at $15 than it might be for you. But as I've said elsewhere in this thread, most of my [retail] purcahses are in the $15-25 range, going on up to $40 or so. I rarely spend $100 on a wine at retail, and rarely more than $120 in a restaurant -- and that's usually Champagne . . .

                            I used to say that there are plenty of great $50+ bottles, but what the world needs is a great $5 bottle of wine. OK, with inflation and all, I now generally say that there are plenty of great $100+ bottles, but what the world needs is a great $10-15 bottle of wine . . .

                            Where are we different?

                            Cheers,
                            Jason

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Understood, sir... eye-to-eye now... Currency conversion is a beach... :)

            2. Dear LastWyf : My initial thought was that $125 is reasonable restaurant price for a Barolo . 2004 is a good year for Nebbiola in Piedmont , and Vietti is a well known producer . My first guess was that the wine would go for at least $75 at retail , as Barolos/Barbarescos are never cheap . I have to think that you are mistaken about the $40 retail , as that is just very hard to believe . It would not have made sense even before the runup in the Euro over the last few years . Bottom line , IMHO , restaurants gouge their wine drinking customers constantly , but not in this case......

              2 Replies
                1. re: pinotho

                  Well, just to check it out, I saw it last Friday at Central Market (whose prices are NOT the cheapest in town) for $44.99 .

                2. Three times the mark-up seems reasonable.

                  Heck Pelligrino purchased for $1.00 goes for $6-10.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    jfood knows food. wine? not so much.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      correct jfood knows diddley about wine. But what is the correct mark-up and if it is a decreasing percentage, i.e 3x for <$25 retail; 2.5x $25-40; 2x $40-100; MP > $100, does this same theory hold true with the tip. jfood has been battered in the past on the tip should also follow a decreasing percentage on expensive wines, and if the restaurant, the person taking the equity risk, has decreasing margins as price increases, then the same should hold true for the variable revenue participant in the equation.

                      So what should mark up be if not 3x, this dog thinks he'll see a lower number.

                      1. re: jfood

                        2x is tops. 1.5x pretty standard. some places are happy to advertise less than 50 percent on every bottle.

                        it's an art, not a science. lots of variables. best to know retail when ordering and determine your own price/pain threshold.

                        the whole tipping-based-on-the-total-including-wine thing is sketchy at best. i haven't formed a coherent response yet but i'm a bit grumpy these days and will work on it.

                        1. re: steve h.

                          "the whole tipping-based-on-the-total-including-wine thing is sketchy at best. i haven't formed a coherent response yet but i'm a bit grumpy these days and will work on it."

                          Unless you order a trophy wine, you tip on the total. I have never met a person who leaves $10 on a $50 bottle of wine but not also $40 on a $200 bottle of wine. A $500+ bottle of wine? Ok, maybe that's beginning to be a differet story.

                          1. re: whiner

                            i think you're making my point: i.e., where does that price point reside? lots of variables.

                            i'll try to think it through and report back.

                            1. re: steve h.

                              Ok, but seriously, how often do you go out and order a $1k wine? In 99.99% of real world scenarios, it is a straight tip and I fear discussion about the incredibly rare instances where it might be appropriate not to take a straight tip just tend to confuse those who don't realize just how expesive the wine would have to be before you start doing that.

                              BTW: there are only two variables I can think of

                              1) Predictability (eg. why is the wine on the list? Just for show, or do they actually think someone might order a wine in that price range?)

                              2) REALLY?!?!?!?! (eg. if food was $125/p, is a table of four really ever going to take the time to "figure out" the tip and have that number be well over a thousand dollars?)

                              1. re: whiner

                                not sure i follow your point or your math. sorry.

                                deb and i order wine with our meals. sometimes we order more than one bottle. chances are the wines we order are pretty good and not great. i don't know anyone who orders $1000 bottles of wine, hence my confusion over your post.

                                1. re: steve h.

                                  "i don't know anyone who orders $1000 bottles of wine..."

                                  EXACTLY!

                                  I wrote: "Unless you order a trophy wine, you tip on the total. I have never met a person who leaves $10 on a $50 bottle of wine but not also $40 on a $200 bottle of wine. A $500+ bottle of wine? Ok, maybe that's beginning to be a differet story."

                                  My point here: Within the context of the real world, you tip on the total but that there may be some exceptions for outrageous circumstances.

                                  then YOU wrote:

                                  "i think you're making my point: i.e., where does that price point reside? lots of variables."

                                  I don't know if I was making your point or not. My point was that you'd need (what would be to most of us) a bizarre circumstance in order to justify not tipping on the total.

                                  My next post, then gave the two "variables" that could cause a person not to tip on the total.

                                  1- if no one could reasonably believe people were going to be ordering wines in that price range on anything approaching a regular basis (eg. more than once per month). EXAMPLE: Restaurant's second most expensive wine is $300. Then they have 1 "trophy" 1k wine that they have 1 bottle of just to say they have 1982 Mouton. You see 1982 Mouton on the list for 1k and even though the total food bill, even after tax, for you and your date is $100, your tip would be $220 if you give a striaght 20% -- which isn't remotely close to what ay server at that restaurant could ever expect to have happen for a 2-top.

                                  2- It is reasonably predictable that tables will be going nuts on wine, but the numbers we are talking about are just so rediculous that obviously you aren't expected to give a straight 20%. EXAMPLE- VeRiTas in Manhattan... known all over the country for its wine list. People go there to do verticals of Harlan Estate or first growth Bordeaux or DRC. Literally, the majority of the list is over $500/bottle with a sizable percentage over 1k/bottle. Tables really do spend thousands on wines there every night. But, even though a server can reasonably anticipate that at some point a table of 4 he waits on will be ordering 5k+ worth of wine, I don't expect that a server there assumes he will be tipped more than, say, about $150 for every bottle he opens.

                                  The point that I was trying to make in that post when I wrote:

                                  "how often do you go out and order a $1k wine? In 99.99% of real world scenarios, it is a straight tip and I fear discussion about the incredibly rare instances where it might be appropriate not to take a straight tip just tend to confuse those who don't realize just how expesive the wine would have to be before you start doing that."

                                  was that, to me, the discussion of when you don't take a straight tip is a thought experiment. In reality, unless you are acting so far outside normal expectations as to make the discussion somewhat silly, you simply tip on the total bill.

                                  :-D

                          2. re: steve h.

                            Where are you eating that you'd call 1.5x standard and 2x tops? I'm in Miami and I jump up and down for joy any time I see something at 1.5x.

                            1. re: Frodnesor

                              eat and drink at a lot of good places.

                              state-side, we split time between east coast and west-coast (northern california). we usually spend time in asia in december and rome in march. just back from london. new orleans is october. and so on.

                              you have to know retail prices at the local market and make your decisions. no easy answers.

                            2. re: steve h.

                              >>> 2x is tops. 1.5x pretty standard. some places are happy to advertise less than 50 percent on every bottle. <<<

                              see below.

                        2. re: jfood

                          "three times the mark-up seems reasonable".....adnd on what planet would that be ??

                          1. re: pinotho

                            Three times mark-up may be reasonable for a $10 wine (maybe) but not when you get into wines in the $40 to $50 range . $150 for a $50 retail wine is excessive in my opinion. In cases like that, the absolute $$ is the issue.

                        3. My general rule is that I expect a very nice restauarant to want to make $35 for serving a bottle of wine from its own cellar. Therefore, a wine that retails for $15 ($10 wholesale) I'm not at all surprised to see selling for $45 on a wine list at a "high-end" restaurant. However, once a certain basic threshold is cleared, I agree that over 100% over retail is too much.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: whiner

                            totally agree with whiner and Bhutani that it is the dollar amount of profit that needs to be discussed , not a multiple , not some percentage of markup . Everytime the restaurant Industry sees one of these "what is the correct percentage of markup" discussions in print , they call their publicists and give them a bonus .

                            To carry their business model to its logical conclusion , a restaurant pays $1500 for a bottle of Screaming Eagle , and they should receive a $3,000. profit on that bottle for bring it out , removing the cork , and pouring it in a glass.

                            That's absurd , and I bet there are restauranteurs right now who would tell you with a straight face that $3,000 profit on one bottle of wine is justified .

                            1. re: pinotho

                              What do you think should happen with a bottle that the restaurant bought at X price, cellared for years, and it's now worth Y (say that Y is quite a bit higher than X)? Should the price reflect a mark up off X or Y?

                              Thanks.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  The cost and risk inherent in cellaring a wine for years should be reflected in the price of the wine, whether it's sold in a restaurant or a wine store. So long as the vintage is available, the current retail price of the wine is a good indication of the value of that cost and risk. So the price should be based on Y, not X.

                                2. re: pinotho

                                  That's fine by me. I'm perfectly happy to have shmoos who will pay $4500 for Screagle subsidizing more reasonable markups on the wines in the price range where I'm buying. More power to 'em.

                                  Most (good) restaurants do taper the markup on the higher end of the price range but for me, once you get over a certain point (and that point is *well* short of four figures), I'm not playing any more so please gouge them for all you can get.

                              1. While restaurants are certainly entitled to sell their wines for as much as the market will bear, I am extremely reluctant to pay more than double the retail price for a bottle. If a place posts its wine list on the internet, it's especially easy to check things out and make a decision about whether to BYO and pay corkage.

                                All other things being equal, I will always take my business to a restaurant that doesn't gouge on wine. I don't expect everyplace to do like Passionfish in Pacific Grove, CA and treat their wine list as a non-profit venture (they price each of their wines just a few dollars over retail, whether it's a Carr Sauvignon Blanc for $15 or a Bond Cabernet for $300), but I don't like feeling that I've been taken advantage of, either.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  That's the heart of it , isn't it , that feeling that you are being taken advantage of..........