A recent report from the Silicon Valley Bank -- strangely the best guide to wine sales -- shows that consumers are spending more on their wine.
The bank reported that "premium" wine sales are increasing while those for cheaper wine under $10 is decreasing. These cheaper wines are often composed of bulk wines, box wines, etc. Wines that cost more aren't necessarily "premium" in my book, but nonetheless wines in the $15-20 and $20-plus have shown sales increases.
More interesting to me in the study was the change in restaurant wines. Consumers are spending less in restaurants, partly because of a shift to more casual restaurants where wine plays a smaller role. Also, chain restaurants sell mass-produced wines because they can depend on supply. An increasing number of smaller wineries are ignoring the three-tier system and selling their wines directly to consumers.
More so, consumers at all ages are frowning at restaurant mark-ups. It's about time to rebel. Younger drinkers, theorizes Silicon Valley Bank's study, know they can pay less for wine in a store and are having only a glass of wine or beer in restaurants. Seniors on fixed income are opting for a glass of wine while dining out and millennials are favoring at-home meals.
I'm a senior citizen now, but until recently my wife and I have enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine while dining out. We recently switched to a glass of wine, which we know has a higher mark-up than a bottle. The bottled wines we like are often the most expensive and I know the mark-up from experience. A restaurant bill with wine can regularly top $200 and occasionally $300. I can't sustained a dining bill this high twice a week.
We like to dine at home, which is the trend nowadays. I have a good cellar of aged wines to tap into. But even those seniors who don't have a cellar, it's still significantly cheaper to buy steak and wine and serve them at home. Restaurants are hurting themselves with these high mark-ups.
And this brings me back to my annoyances: restaurants should be less focused on mass producers of common wines marked up 300-400 percent. Instead, they should find the small producers who will appeal to the curious consumer and whose prices are more moderate. They are out there -- I taste these wines every week.
Sure, these producers may not be able to replenish inventory but why not have a list of daily specials? When they run out, list something else. I've seen this done in restaurants with great success. Those restaurant owners who aren't lazy and who are willing to spend some time on their wine lists will reap the rewards.