Say What Makes the Wine Great. “It’s really critical to highlight what is unique about special wines,” says Emily Wines, M.S., director of wines for Kimpton Restaurants in San Francisco. “Take care to box them out on the wine list and give more information about them.”
On the wine list of Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago, wine director Steve Tindle introduces his 40-wine pinot noir section with this nugget: “Shaw’s is proud to be one of the pioneers of Oregon pinot noir in Chicago. We love pinot noir because it’s the red wine that loves seafood.”
Keep the Markup Reasonable. “I’ve always believed that if I buy a bottle of wine for $150, I don’t need to mark it up two times plus $10,” says Ming Tsai, chef-owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass. With a lighter markup, bottles become a perceived value and move much more readily.
Partner with Distributors. Rather than discount his wines, which he feels is detrimental to a fine dining restaurant, Roland Passot, chef and
co-owner of La Folie in San Francisco, would rather collaborate with distributors on well-priced wine dinners that promote his wine program, attract new clientele and help to move unsold stock. “Three courses with wine at La Folie for $95 per person is a heck of a deal,” says Passot. “It’s a matter of negotiating with the winery or distributor on how we are going to support each other.”
Invest in Allocated Wines. People still celebrate special occasions. Business entertainment will bounce back someday. Those are all reasons to stock up on high-end wines now if you can afford it, per Blue Ginger’s Tsai. He recently snapped up a case of new wines from a boutique producer that cost him $800. “Allocated wines get better and better,” says Tsai. “Ten years from now, they’ll be really great.”