Excessive profits

Among the many topics that food lovers frequently discuss is the price of wine in restaurants. Excessive uplifts upset everyone, the winery, the distributor, and the consumer, but the restaurants are the decision-makers, so we have to pay their often-exorbitant prices. Or do we?

London is referred to as ‘The Rip-off Capital of the Wine World’ in a recent The Spectator article. The greediest culprits are named and shamed, conspicuously Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, and Robert de Niro’s Nobu. The Fat Duck’s list features wines at 900 euros, many based on a 500% mark-up. Nobu (incidentally just opened in Marbella) is a serial offender in every country it operates, with a similar mark-up. Typically a French Bordeaux costing 88 pounds retail will be listed at 650.

There cannot be a winemaker or distributor who has not attempted to persuade restaurants to stop being so greedy – and so crass. Unfailing logic dictates that a wine with a 15 euro cost will sell in greater quantity if priced at 25 rather than 35, but such unshakable reasoning falls on deaf ears. Restaurants spuriously cite the high cost of glasses and the time it takes a wine waiter to serve a bottle as justification. And buying, cooking and serving the food?

As well as placing the wine they want to sell at second place in each section of the list (no-one wants to be seen ordering the cheapest), many restaurants would bamboozle customers into ordering unheard-of wines at high prices. Fortunately this practice has seen its days cut short by the use of wine apps on mobile phones, enabling anyone to see the real cost of a wine. And the BYOB (bring your own bottle) craze that is sweeping the civilised restaurant world actually helps both restaurant and customer. Cellar stocks can be reduced and surveys demonstrate that customers leave in a happier frame of mind when they have eaten well and enjoyed the wine they took with them.