Pricing and promotion
The Bubbly Mermaid bar, which Naff built himself out of scavenged materials and wine pallets, has no wine list, just Champagne bottles arrawnged on tiers of shelves. “Menus are too boring, and my bottles change out so often,” says the owner. Plus, “Champagne labels are so striking and intriguing.”
The Champagne on the lowest tier is priced at $12 a glass; $75 a bottle. Naff will open any bottle on that shelf with no glass minimum; because of how quickly the product moves, he doesn’t have a problem with bottles going flat.
The second tier is $100 a bottle; $20 a glass, with a two-glass minimum if the selected bottle is not already open. The third shelf is $30 a glass, $150 a bottle; the fourth is $40 a glass, $200 a bottle. The Bubbly Mermaid’s top shelf is $50 a glass and $300-plus per bottle. Naff takes a small margin on the top Champagnes. “We don’t always make a killing on our top-tier bottles, but it is fun to move some bottles that no one this far north is selling,” he says.
“Selling Champagne by the glass is not always economically feasible,” says Brian Bolter, co-owner/beverage director of the Red Red Wine Bar in Annapolis, MD. So he upgrades his sparkling wine flight with a vintage-dated cava, a prosecco superiore and a sparkling chenin blanc from the Loire made by a Champagne winemaker. “It’s a Champagne mentality at a more affordable price point,” says Bolter.
Of the 50 or so selections Red Red Wine Bar offers by the glass, about 10% are sparkling, including a chardonnay-riesling blend from Brazil called Salton Intenso. “I’d never had a Brazilian wine before,” says Bolton. “This sparkling wine was delicious, interesting and unusual, and went over well with my customers.”
At his other restaurant, Dry85, which is focused on craft beer, whiskey and comfort food, Bolton serves just one sparkler, Veuve Clicquot. It’s a special on his food menu: Champagne and Hand-Cut Fries tossed in truffle oil, rosemary and sea salt; priced at $49 with a half-bottle or $84 for a 750-ml. bottle.
“It’s a great yin-and-yang combination,” Bolton says of the popular fries and bubbly order, “a bit of luxury and gluttony wrapped into one.”
Price—especially on Champagne—can be a sticking point for many consumers. Some operators find that sparkling sales are easier by the glass or split or if bottles are priced to move.
Mina Group’s RN74 restaurant offers a number of Champagnes by the half-bottle, ranging in price from $50 to $70. “Moving product starts with pricing correctly,” advises Grajewski. Sparkling wines are often marked up at a lesser rate than a comparable still wine, especially by the glass. Once a bottle is open, it has to be sold or it will be wasted.
At Sage restaurants, wine lists are offering a more diverse by-the-glass selection of sparklers, including Champagne. “[We’re] often pricing it below margin, to make it more accessible to consumers,” adds Wise.
Sage’s Second Home concept offers three sparkers by the glass: Lunetta prosecco ($9); Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne ($21); and Chandon Brut ($12). Overall the Sage restaurants sell the most sparkling wines by the glass.
“It’s a great gateway into our wine program at all of our restaurants, which gives the consumer a feel for our wine sensibilities and builds trust,” Wise says.