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The real reason your wine costs so much at restaurants

on 24/06/15 at 10:38 am


images“After 15 years of reviewing restaurants for The Post, I still get the jitters when the wine list comes. Sure, snooty sommeliers of old have been replaced by friendly faces who know how to sell more with smiles than sneers.

What’s daunting is knowing how much wines should cost. Never a cinch except for experts, it’s gotten harder than ever thanks to prices that increasingly run all over the map — sometimes even at places owned by the same people. Two new apps try to cut the vineyard jungle down to size, but only compound confusion.

Unfathomable pricing has always been part of the dining-out terroir.

Typically, wines in restaurants cost twice what someone would pay in a store and 3½ times the wholesale price. But that’s little help when: a) You have no idea what the wholesale price is, and b) You’re confronted by columns of half-familiar, confusingly named vintages from all over the globe.

It can drive you to drink — anything but wine, that is. And it seems that even restaurants don’t know how much wine should cost — eateries across the city are selling the same bottles at dramatically different prices. Silver Oak 2009 cabernet sauvignon from Napa, a mere $200 on Tamarind Tribeca’s remarkably fair-priced list, costs more most elsewhere, up to $300 at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Tamarind has one customer “who comes just for Château Haut-Brion Premier Grand Cru 2006,” a manager explains. The popular Indian place sells it for $1,100, compared with $1,550 at Restaurant Daniel.

Another prized cabernet sauvignon, Quilceda Creek 2010 from Washington state’s Columbia Valley, ranges in the low- to high-$300s at the Capital Grille, Sparks Steak House and Union Square Cafe. But it’s $545 at Gotham Bar and Grill, which gets only eight bottles a year, says wine director Heidi Turzyn. Although wholesalers must sell wine to all restaurants at the same prices, a place with a very small supply may regard it as special and price it accordingly.”