Monday, March 4, 2013

Americans are drinking more wines by the glass

"I'll have a glass of the Saint-Romain, please."
Americans are apparently drinking more wines by the glass.

Labrador OmniMedia, a company that runs iPad wine lists and keeps all the data from them, released a study last week that shows that 80% of all wine orders at mid-priced restaurants are by-the-glass, and 66% of all wine orders at high-priced restaurants (with average check over $60/person) are by-the-glass.

The company, co-founded by Jordan winery owner John Jordan, has 150 restaurants in 30 states. "Our biggest markets are Texas and Colorado," says CEO Josh Hermsmeyer.

It's not a random cross-section of US dining habits. In addition to the regional limitations, all of the restaurants have iPad wine lists, which must say something about them.

But it is an interesting snapshot of the way diners in forward-thinking restaurants drink now. Ten years ago it was hard to get interesting wines by the glass outside of New York, San Francisco and a few other cities. Now it's increasingly the way people expect to drink.

However, they're not lining up to drink Alvarelhao and Garnaxta Blanca in Denver and Dallas.

The No. 1 varieties sold at mid-priced restaurants are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In cheap restaurants, people are drinking those along with Pinot Noir, Malbec and Prosecco. In high-priced restaurants, they're drinking lots of sparkling wine: 33% of all wines ordered. Chardonnay is No. 2 at high-priced restaurants.

It's also worth noting that the stats are wine orders, not total wine sold. In other words, in the mid-priced restaurant section, 18,341 bottles and 94,878 glasses of Chardonnay were ordered. I don't know how big the average glass pour is, but if you get 5 glasses from a bottle, that means about the same amount of Chardonnay was sold by the bottle and by the glass.

But still. A good by-the-glass list is key to a great dining experience, and it's good to see more restaurants and diners recognizing it.

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Jonas Landau, everydaywineguy said...

I helped some friends put their wine list together at Nomad Pizza in Philly. The crowd is mostly young folks and young families and the by the glass sales far outpace the bottle sales. I was initially surprised by this since my wife and I will almost always order a bottle. It was (and continues to be) a challenge to find decent inexpensive wines to pour by the glass that we can make some money on. As you probably know, PA is a state system and restaurants have to buy from the state at full retail mark up. Crazy! BTW, I Love your blog. Cheers.

W. Blake Gray said...

Thanks, Jonas! Believe it or not, at one time my name was stenciled onto PLCB store windows. Now there's a long story.

Unknown said...

Wines by the glass are a great idea and a wonderful way for diners to try a wine or varietal first, before buying a bottle. Unfortunately, restaurants are taking advantange of diners by pushing up their by-the-glass prices. It's so annoying to see $12-$15+ by the glass prices, especially when a quick peek on your phone can tell you the retail bottle price is under $25 for the bottle!

The Wine Creature said...

Don- For better or for worse, the practice at most restaurants has been to price wines by the glass at whatever price the bottle was sold to them. Lately, some restaurants have gone away from this (both higher and lower), but this has been, more or less, the industry standard for many years.

Unknown said...

Even though the wines by the glass programs are very profitable, I feel that restaurants would like to see bottles on the tables. Also, for the winery, they typically make more money on each bottle they sell to the restaurant, if it is then sold per bottle instead of by the glass. A lot of wineries though want to have their wines sold by the glass b/c it is a good marketing technique. For example, if the winery charges the public $30 for a bottle, they sell it to the restaurant for around $20, and if it is carried on the wines by the glass list, then it is sold to the restaurant for $15 a bottle. The restaurant then turns around and sells that wine by the glass for around $15 a glass. They then make $60 to $75 on that bottle. One of the reasons I started VinoServant was to provide transparency (by pointing out the best values on restaurant wine lists), which should give consumers confidence to buy wine by the bottle instead of the glass. The benefit to the restaurant is that instead of a couple ordering a glass of white ($12 x 2 = $24), and two glasses of red ($14 x 4 = $56), they still order the white, but then they purchase a bottle of red for between $60 to $80.