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  Editorial Issue 104, February 2012   
Wine and Restaurant: a Difficult RelationshipWine and Restaurant: a Difficult Relationship  Contents 
Issue 103, January 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 105, March 2012

Wine and Restaurant: a Difficult Relationship


 Wine at the restaurant, or better to say, the way wine is being served and sold at the restaurant, is a frequent subject and most of the times troublesome. The fact it is a frequent subject, it is very likely in restaurants - talking in general terms - the service of wine is often seen by clients as inadequate or unsatisfactory. It is a troublesome subject because whenever you talk about wine at the restaurant, it is almost impossible not to talk about its price and, in particular, the profit they make in order to bring a bottle to the table. Moreover, this subject is troublesome for producers as well: when you ask them about the price at which their wines are generally sold at the shelf, they show an evident annoyance in telling this information as this is sometimes out of their control. As they have to sell their wines, also in restaurants, in order not to wrong them - last but not the least, in order not to receive complains for having spread a certain price - they do all they can in order to avoid saying a reliable price.


 

 The marketing of wine is very particular. As opposed to what happens for many other products, for which it frequently is the producer to set the retail price, in wine exists a sort of “marketing anarchy” in which everyone, more or less, sets the price which is considered to be appropriate or convenient. Therefore we have, for example, profits which are sometimes higher than 400%, even though it is very common to sell a wine with at least a profit of 150% from its cost. This is, of course, a generalization, as there are many cases in which can be seen an evident exception. They are just cases, in fact. It is not my intention to blame restaurants for getting excessively high profits, as this also happens in other business categories, too. It is however undeniable the most frequent complain from consumers is about the price paid for a bottle of wine at the restaurant. I can say this also because of the many letters we receive from our readers: most of them are about the retail price of wines, in particular, at the restaurant.

 Complains are not about price only. Many complain about the little attention the wine receives at the restaurant, not only about the way it is being served, but also about the way it is being presented. Inadequate glasses, approximate temperature, confusing wine list which is sometimes a mere list of what should be available in the cellar. Moreover, many complain about the scarce “technical” knowledge of the staff in charge of serving wine, sometimes having evident difficulties even at the moment of uncorking a bottle. Not to mention when the bottle arrives at the table already uncorked: any suspect and any doubt about its content and the wine itself are legitimate. Sometimes, when you sit at the table of a restaurant, you get the impression wine is an obstacle instead of something allowing the best appreciation of what has been produced in the kitchen. For many, this is undeniable, wine is simply a way to increase profits, in other words, a product like any other else, provided it allows the increasing of the amount a client will pay at the end of the meal.

 It is not my intention to blame all the restaurants: there are in fact many and praiseworthy exceptions. There are restaurants which understood the role of wine, and in particular, what a client expects and sometimes it is not happy with the “house wine” or with the sad question “white or red?”. It is however undeniable they are exceptions, as in most of the cases the service and the attention wine gets at the restaurant is quite depressing. It is not a matter of price only: I am certainly willing to pay a price in case I get an adequate and professional service in return, something satisfying my expectations. I admit I am very pedantic when I sit at the table of a restaurant - after all, it is not always easy, in those cases, to get rid of your professional bias - however it is also true my pedantry is in function of what I spend and what I get in return. Just like everyone, after all.

 The difficult relationship of wine and the restaurant is not only affected by price, it is however disconcerting sometimes the price of a bottle is higher than what you pay for the meal. It could be said producers are the ones to be blamed for this and for the fact they sell their wines at high prices. It is known this is not always true, however the solution is very simple and was proposed for the first time by Luigi Veronelli - and then supported by others, including myself - when he suggested to state in the bottle the price at which it is usually sold at the winery. No one is questioning the fact everyone selling a wine should get a legitimate and understandable profit for their job, however this is different from speculation. Maybe this is the reason why most of restaurants do not allow their clients to bring their own wines from home, something which is accepted in many countries of the world, as this is considered as a cause of loss of profit, despite the fact it is right to pay for the service of bottle uncorking, the use and wash of glasses.

 Not only of prices and profits, but also, and in particular, of service. I am happy to pay something more, provided I get something adequate in return. Professionalism and work of others, not only are to be respected, but they also have been properly paid. By seeing those awkward operations during the uncorking of a bottle and the service of wine, inadequate glasses or wrong temperatures, it does not positively predispose the client. The same can be said for some confusing wine lists, with evident and embarrassing mistakes, lack of information which are not however satisfied even in case one asks the person assigned to the service. Professionalism is also this: being capable of answering questions of clients and to be culturally competent as well as knowing what it is “sold” in a restaurant. This is not something related to wine only, but to everything being served at the table of the client, including what has been made in the kitchen. In conclusion, I am asking restaurateurs this provocative question, wishing this can be useful for a reflection. You rightly expect a profit for your job and for what you sell, including wine: are you really sure what you give your clients is adequate for the money they pay?

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 104, February 2012   
Wine and Restaurant: a Difficult RelationshipWine and Restaurant: a Difficult Relationship  Contents 
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