Wine at restaurant 1 of 3

Food is divine with wine, so wine in a restaurant should be sublime, right?

Not necessarily.

You do not have to be wine expert to recognize restaurants often charge twice as much or more than same wine costs you in a store. Buy Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay for $14 in store, $27 in restaurant. Your inner accountant says ‘whoa!’

During next three weeks, explanations and strategies for enjoying wine without fearing a restaurant ravaged you. Insight into restaurateur’s issues, too.

Restaurants must make a profit; they can’t sell wine for same price you pay for it. Plus, you are not just buying bottles—you pay for restaurant to buy and store, for sommelier (employee in charge of wine) to obtain wines, for wastage of bottles gone bad or rejected by customers.

The restaurant also pays a 14% excise tax you do not, must carry liability insurance, and faces other expenses that don’t affect your wine-store purchase.

Insight: because some expenses of wine selection are the same no matter the price, the bottle cost often determines markup. If retail price is between $8 and $20, expect to pay double even triple—$10 bottle becomes $20-$30 to cover fixed costs. When wine’s retail bottle price climbs to between $20 and $30, restaurants may double the retail price. So, a $25 bottle becomes $45-$55. At highest end, the price may only be 1.5 times the cost.

Still, high prices cause some to order no-cost water instead of wonderful wine. Next week, strategies to address this issue.


• Marqués De Caza Tempranillo. Smooth, fruity, goes well with pork. Spain. Wine store $8; local restaurant $16.

• Norton Mendoza Reserva Malbec. Rasberries and figs. Wine store $14; local restaurant $25.

• Villa Antinori Toscana Rosso. Ruby red, red berries, oaky vanillas. Wine store $19; local restaurant $38.

• Enkidu Diener Ranch Zinfandel. Plums, cedar, licorice; full bodied. California. Wine store $26; local restaurant $42.