Drinking Port Wine in restaurants; margins too high?

Port Wine bottles in Vinologia, PortoWhile I was researching for consumer trends on the Port Wine industry, I found an interesting article on Restaurant Wine. The text is from 2005 and shows satisfying conclusions about Port Wine consumption, defending that Premium Tawny Ports were increasingly popular in the US restaurants. I wonder if this trend has changed in the last few years. I guess many of you that live in the US, and have been attentive to the market during the last years can help me answer that. If you live anywhere else, do you see any change in terms of Port Wine offering in restaurants?

In the center and north of Europe and US, regions that represent over 90% of Port Wine consumption, it is pretty common to find in restaurants, at least, one or two references of Port Wine. Actually, I dare to say that in Holland, Belgium, UK and maybe even Denmark, good restaurants have a broader offer of Port Wine than Portuguese restaurants do (for a Portuguese native it’s not hard to find an explanation for this, as we love to consume everything that is not national; whisky rocks in Portugal).

However, in the same article, you could read “Premium Tawnies should be priced like other wines, not spirits! Ridiculous markups (more than 4 times costs) are the surest means of killing sales.” This is probably right, even though I am not the best person to talk about it, as a producer I want my wine to be available at the lowest price. Is there anyone to defend restaurants?!?

Share you drinking habits, do you use to drink Port in restaurants? And are you reducing or increasing your overall consumption of Port Wine? IVDP‘s figures show year-to-date sales of Port Wine growing over 10%. Not bad!


6 Comments Added

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  1. jeff Monday July 19th, 2010 | reply
    if only it was a 4x mark up. take the croft 00 for instance. i got it 22$ retail, the restaurant carries it at 110$. Grahams 77' I get it at 85$ auction, restaurant sells it for 400$ Fonseca 03' lbv, is 10$ retail but marks up for 100$. I pretty much never order a bottle of port at restaurants because of such. I might pay 12$ for a tiny glass of 20 yr tawny at the end of the meal but usually I'm just dying for a taste of port. The best I've seen though, was surprisingly a restaurant (I believe a mispricing) had a Taylor 94 for 140$.
  2. Gerwin de Graaf Tuesday July 20th, 2010 | reply
    In Holland, although most of the 'better' restaurants have quite a nice collection of ports on offer, the prices usually are quite high. About €10 for a glass of 10-yo Tawny (a bottle of thesame would cost me about €15 retail) and that's not even the michelin-star category of places, and vintages usually only by the bottle. Therefore I usually do not drink portwine in restaurants (except when they have just the right cheeses or a desert which just screams to be acompanied by some port), or when the port is included in the total "wine-arrangement". I usually can hold on untill I get home, and have my glass of port then :-)). Gerwin
  3. Andy Velebil Wednesday July 21st, 2010 | reply
    I'm seeing more and more restaurants in the USA with Port on their wine lists. But there are three main problems I often encounter. 1- The prices are all over the place. I've seen a glass of Graham's Six-Grapes sell for over twice as much as a glass of Sandeman 20 year old tawny in the same restaurant. And if you want to buy a bottle, stand by. I've seen even NV Reserve Ruby Ports sell for well over $80/bottle. That is about 4-5+ times what it retails for. So of course it doesn't sell and then the manager complains that Port isn't an item that "moves" fast enough. It's not the fault of the Port, but who in their right mind would buy a bottle at that mark up? 2- Bottles of Port are often left open for way too long. I've seen a 1985 Dow's VP that has been open on the bar shelf at a local restaurant near me for well over 3-4 months. 3- Most restaurants either use a very small cordial glass or a very large red wine glass. both of which are not appropriate for Port. The last two are much easier to address by a restaurant simply training its staff. The first one however.....I have no idea how to get them to change their pricing models.
  4. Dries Thursday July 22nd, 2010 | reply
    Strangely, I often come across nice old vintages at a reasonable price. I guess these are the ones being in the cellar for 5+ years with no price adjustment. On the other hand, I never buy them since the decanting time is most certainly to short. I do agree that port in general is way to expensive in restaurants + as Andy stated above, I do not trust an open bottle without pre-tasting it.
  5. jeff Thursday July 22nd, 2010 | reply
    and #2 is usually a direct correlation to #1
  6. Alex Saturday July 24th, 2010 | reply
    There are some restaurants in the UK which carry port at sensible prices in the UK, generally around London. There are others which are exactly as Andy describes. Clearly, I tend to visit the ones which fall into the first category. I had lunch in one of these last week, with my lamb burger being washed down by a generously sized glass of Sandeman 2000 LBV, priced at £6.50 - which still prices the complete bottle at £65! (but if I had bought the complete bottle then the price was about half this).

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