I'm jaded. I get to travel and eat in restaurants all over the world. No, I don't do food tourism any more though. Those days are long gone as the thrill of a three star Michelin has been replaced by discovering the new place in a town or city I've been to before. And, what turns me on is intelligence in wine lists, especially where the by the glass list stops being formulaic or simply this week's release.
What I'm finding is that in Europe, many a list will have library bottles at prices that encourage purchase, while here in the USA the lists either lack any real depth of older vintages, or if they do, they are priced so high, that rarely will the bottle get purchased, except in the nation's more expensive dining spots.
Take for example a bottle I can buy of a current release for $35.00 retail. While I'd be happy to pay a fair mark-up on the $25-28 wholesale price that the restaurant would have paid, say $50.00-$55.00 for that bottle, seeing the wine at $90-110 a bottle on the list makes me pause and want to pay $20.00 a bottle corkage or so for a more mature bottle from my cellar of the same wine, only from a prior vintage.
Why? In most cases red wines are usually too young to be fully enjoyed upon release. That means at $100 for a bottle you're drinking something which if you went to the wine shop and purchased three at retail and laid them down for a few years, the enjoyment factor would go way up, and the value even higher.
In line with this is winemaker dinners. Over the past few years when I've pulled older bottles of wines of winemakers I know, and we've opened them along side the current releases, the winemakers have sold more of the new wines, than when the new releases are just featured by themselves. Older vintages help sell newer releases.
Given the facts, it's time for restaurants to seriously think their bottle and pricing strategies if they want to really be "wine" oriented vs. wine sales oriented. Whats more they also need to work with the wineries to find library bottles without the "library" price and instead of marking them as "reserve" wines, offer them at better prices as "legacy" bottles. That will encourage trail and comparison of the newly released wines, and in turn greater sales of both.
Restaurants need to rethink wine sales, and not rely on them as simply trophies to have on a list, but as a modern way for customer engagement.