Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wine Deals by the Glass or Bottle

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wine Deals by the Glass or Bottle

Article excerpt

In many restaurants that have opened in Pittsburgh within the past six months, small plates cost between $9 and $20, a range that matches the price of wines by the glass. While this may not seem particularly shocking, in a quick check on Eater.com's top 38 restaurant lists, it's on par with wine prices in New York and San Francisco.

When dining spots hike prices for wines by the glass, it can stifle diners' enthusiasm to explore wines in restaurants, the easiest place to do so in Pennsylvania. Tastings in state- controlled wine and spirit stores are lean to nonexistent especially when it comes to the more compelling vintners.

Rather than dropping prices per glass and cutting into profits, restaurants are getting creative by changing from the standard five ounces per pour and adjusting prices accordingly. Discounted house wine has been creeping back on menus while after-work and late- night happy hours remain common. Some restaurants have increased focus in training staff to educate diners. But the biggest push is to offer incentives for customers to buy bottles.

"One of the problems is that restaurants don't buy at wholesale prices as other states do," said Dave DeSimone, co-owner of Bridge Ten Brasserie on the South Side. Mr. DeSimone has been a radio host for KQV (1410 AM) and a wine writer for more than 20 years.

In other markets, he explained, restaurants have wiggle room to mark up wine between two and four times the wholesale price.

In Pennsylvania, restaurants get 10 percent off the retail price per bottle, which keeps the restaurant markup to 2 to 21/2 times the restaurant's purchase price.

One rule applies, no matter where a drink is served: "If you gouge them, they're not going to come back," he said.

Mr. DeSimone used to offer wine flights but stopped a few months ago. Now, he serves house white (2010 Capucine Les Ollieux blanc) and red wine (2011 Capucine Les Ollieux rouge) for $7 a glass or $23 a pitcher. Prices fall to $5 a glass during daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m.

His French-focused list features glasses from $8 to $22 and bottles from $36 to $110, with a broad selection in the $40 range. They include a 2011 Famille Sparr Pinot Gris ($14 by the glass and $55 by the bottle) and a 2006 Domaine David Renaud Burgundy ($15 by the glass and $59 by the bottle). He maintains that the best value for an interesting wine is by the bottle.

Sarah Thomas, sommelier at Bar Marco in the Strip, concurs. She said she has more to offer among wines that are "completely unique" when customers order by the bottle. They include the 2005 Camille Cayran Les Salyens, a Sauvignon blanc and Bordeaux blend with a deep color that alludes to its richness.

She can fetch unusual bottles by buying from wine reps closer to Philadelphia who will ship to local stores, such as those who sell from the David Bowler wine portfolio, which isn't available in Pittsburgh. …

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