the entire point of keg wine
is this fresh, juicy wine, not
intended for anything other
than immediate enjoyment
and happy food pairing.” She
adds that when they started
serving wine from the keg
two years ago, the Gotham
Project Finger Lakes Riesling
was the only one available;
today she can choose wines
from around the world.
Other solutions for freshness can be
simple as Private Preserve, which tops off
an opened bottle with an inert gas from a
spray can, to installations like the Cruvi-
net or Enomatic, which maintain the
temperature and dispense the wine while
preventing oxygen exposure. These units,
however, can be expensive and take up a
lot of space. Ideally, by monitoring their
offerings, even small restaurants should be
able to offset spoilage via the higher glass-
pour revenues.
As with beer, kegged wine is an excel-
lent value for the restaurant, and can
still be well-priced for guests at strong
margins. For wines packaged in conven-
tional bottles, most restaurants charge the
wholesale price of the bottle for a single
glass, which accounts for by-the-glass
wine’s popularity among beverage manag-
ers when they’re calculating their cost of
goods percentage. Wines says, “Mark-ups
maybe come down a little on the high
end—typically for Champagne, as they
inevitably get pricier. They end up being
the best value on list.”
Even if you are sticking with high-
recognition varietal wines,
selecting a pour goes be-
yond choosing a wine you
like that fits the price range.
How your glass pours are
presented can impact flexi-
bility. “We don’t change our
list a lot,” says Rzeszewski,
“because it means changing the website,
the menu, training…. I want something
to be on for at least three months.” That
means the supplier needs to have ad-
equate stock. The Spotted Pig recently
switched to an all-domestic list, and Rz-
eszewski says a lot of the boutique produc-
ers she wanted to pour didn’t have enough
wine to make it work for her.
Michael Madrigale, who runs the
wine programs at three of Daniel Boulud’s
restaurants in New York, agrees. “If they
don’t have at least ten cases I won’t put
it by-the-glass,” he says. “Like a Beaujo-
lais from Lapierre, the Morgon. Much as I
want to pour it by-the-glass, I won’t—it’s
so good I don’t want to burn through it.
Even if it’s a feather in my cap to have
something rare and affordable you need to
save it; you can’t be a spendthrift.”
Some venues can be more flexible. “I
can change my wines by-the-glass every
week, and sometimes will,” says Tidwell,
who adds that he doesn’t worry about sup-
ply or continuity issues with his slower-
moving, more esoteric wines, and also has
a number of selections he can pull from
the bottle list if need be.
There’s also room to play. Madrigale
offers something special each evening at
Bar Boulud by pouring a selection from
a large format bottle—“only bottles with
some age, sold at cost.” So it’s not a mon-
eymaker directly, but it generates buzz and
reminds people that they can get some-
thing special there. In addition, “Flights
are always fun, and people seem to like
them. We did a flight from volcanic soils:
a white from Santorini, a red from Cam-
pania, a white from Canary Islands. Or
you could do Rieslings from different soils.
People are really into it.”
Michael Riahi—who left a management
position at a large NY metro distributor to
form his own import company, Riahi Selec-
tions—has found by-the-glass programs
to be a fertile proving ground for boutique
offerings. “I find that buyers are looking to
offer their customers a unique experience
with high-quality, atypical wines,” says
Riahi. “When I tell the story of the family-
owned vineyards and artisanal production, it
allows the buyer to really connect, and they
become as passionate about the product
as the winemakers themselves.” From the
restaurant standpoint, consistent supply
of small-production wines can become an
issue in a higher-volume glass program; and
esoteric wines will need more TLC to move
like Cabernet and Chardonnay. Still, artisanal
wines bring some real advantages:
Restaurants want to support artisanal
wines and family producers, just like
they support local farmers.
Smaller producers offer “unique” vari-
etals; Riahi’s imports include Friulano,
Ribolla Gialla, Refosco and Pignolo
from Italy, Albariño from Spain; and
a Crémant from Alsace made from
100% Pinot Noir.
Small production give restaurants an
edge of exclusivity—buyers like pouring
wines that customers probably won’t
find at the wine shop down the street.
Michael Madrigale of Daniel Boulud’s NYC restaurants.
Dana Farner of CUT Steakhouse, LA
(left); Emily Wines of Kimpton Hotels.
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