Watch that wine list: Pricey pours get more popular
Brace yourself for New York prices when it comes to a glass of wine.
Area restaurants are pouring more highly rated and cult wines by the glass near or above $20 per serving. While some dining rooms have begun to offer $20 glasses for the first time, others are expanding their selections beyond a single red and a single white.
The better wine is welcome news for oenophiles, who have been limited to wine bars or the same one or two options to go with their $80 surf and turf. For years, the restaurant industry has held back on offering more upscale glasses for fear of not selling enough and wasting an expensive bottle.
With more customers wanting a different wine than their dining partners or a special glass, operators now are willing to open their better bottles, says David Flom, co-owner of Chicago Cut Steakhouse. It has sold $20-per-glass wines since opening in 2010 and has a dozen wines at that price. Its most expensive glass is a $45 2007 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from Bond Estates, considered one of the best cab makers in the country. The restaurant sells 30 glasses a day on average.
“The classic question is, who’s paying for it,” he says.
Downtown restaurants, including GT Fish & Oyster, Everest, Paris Club, La Scarola and Piccolo Sogno, and suburban outlets like Zak’s Place in Hinsdale and Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest have upped their glass selections in recent months, according to Bill Terlato, president and CEO of Lake Bluff-based Terlato Wine Group Ltd., which controls 10 percent of the U.S. market for wine over $15 per bottle. “It definitely is moving in that direction and at a faster clip,” he says, adding that millennial consumers drink twice as much fine wine as the national average.
He says that in 2010, 10 percent of his sales to restaurants were for wines by the glass. In 2011, it rose to 14 percent. The total wine industry is growing by 3 percent or 4 percent, which is on par with the overall restaurant industry. But sales at high-end restaurants are growing in the double digits, reflecting increasing confidence among high-end diners, says David Henkes, vice president at Chicago-based restaurant consultant Technomic Inc. “It takes a certain kind of consumer to spend that much on a glass,” he says.