By the Glass or Buy the Bottle? Ordering Wine in Restaurants

wine glass bottles

If you scan any bar or restaurant wine list, it’s immediately apparent that there is a huge discrepancy in price between wine by the glass and the same thing by the bottle. Because of this chasm, many people – especially value-minded individuals – tend to go the less expensive route: They buy by the glass.

But here’s the thing, wine by the glass isn’t a value at all. In fact, it’s an enormous waste of money.

“But it’s so much cheaper!” you might say. And, technically, you’d be correct. Is $10 cheaper than $30? Yes. But if that’s your argument, you’re missing the point – and several glasses of extra wine.

Typically – although not always – the cost by the glass is equal to the wholesale price of the bottle. Although that mark-up might seem a little extreme, it’s important to remember that once a bottle of wine is opened, there are only a few days before it becomes a lost asset. As such, a restaurant has to ensure that they aren’t losing money on that BV Coastal Chardonnay they opened just for you. As a general rule, the wines that lose their value fastest will have the highest mark-up (sparkling, etc.).

If glass prices are equivalent to the wholesale price of a full bottle, how much should someone expect to pay for the bottle at a restaurant? Although it varies significantly, the average markup is around 250 – 300%. The overage helps cover the weighty labor, food and overhead costs shouldered by the restaurant.

Doing the math – If a restaurant’s wholesale cost is $10 for a bottle of wine, you can expect to pay around $30 for it. In a store, you’re probably looking at around $15 or so for the same bottle – and $10 – $15 is probably what you’ll pay by the glass. There are approximately 5 glasses in a bottle of wine, so – using this example – you can spend $30 for five glasses of wine by the bottle, or $50 for the same amount of wine, if purchased by the glass.

Is wine by the glass less expensive? Yes. Is it a value? No. The best deal will almost always be by the bottle. If you’re worried about wasting leftover wine, ask the restaurant if you can bring the rest home; it varies by restaurant.

“But I only want one glass!” you say – and this is understandable. By the glass is still the best way to try something new. If you’re out for the night, you’ve already succumbed to the markup, anyway – so just do it. Either that, or buy a beer.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes

Add a Comment