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Dining Hacks

Why You Shouldn’t Order Wine By the Glass

By Kelly Dobkin
January 10, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

Welcome to Dining Hacks: helping you navigate your next meal with expert advice from industry insiders. 

It’s not uncommon these days that you’ll see by-the-glass wine prices starting at $14 and escalating up to $20 (especially in big city settings like NYC or SF), creating some serious sticker shock. Why are by-the glass prices so high and getting higher? Aside from the cost of the wine, restaurants have big rents to pay but also, by-the-glass wines are one of the ways restaurants make their biggest profits. If you just want one glass (especially when dining solo), that’s absolutely your prerogative, but if you’re dining with more than one other person it probably behooves you to get a bottle. Here’s why.

1. It's common knowledge that by-the-glass wines are marked up higher than bottled wines, but what's the typical breakdown? Joe Campanale, Beverage Director and co-owner of dell’anima, L’Artusi, Anfora, and L’Apicio restaurants in NYC tells us, "Everyone does it a little bit differently but the industry standard is that they charge for a glass what the restaurant pays for a bottle - the wholesale price. The idea is that wines by the glass move more quickly, servers know them and sell them better and that's what the restaurant makes some of its highest margins on." Campanale also confirmed that by-the-glass wines are marked up higher than bottles (although this margin varies) practically industry-wide.

2. Wine people don't order wine by the glass. We spoke to David Lombardo, Wine and Beverage Director of Benchmarc Restaurants (Marc Murphy’s restaurant group) who tells us that you’ll almost always get a better value by going quartino or bottle. “I’ve ordered a glass of wine out maybe once in the last two years, I usually always go for a bottle."

3. What you also may not realize is sometimes by-the-glass options are someone else's leftovers. Campanale tells us, "That could certainly happen, and might at some restaurants. At my restaurants, it definitely feels weird to sell a party's unfinished bottle, but if someone gets a new bottle and doesn't like it right away, we'll definitely pull it off the table and then sell off the rest of the bottle by the glass."

4. Another upside to ordering a bottle? Most restaurants will let you take home the unfinished vino, so you're not losing any value there.

So when in doubt, go for the bottle. Besides, what fun is only one glass anyway?

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