31 January 2008
By Douglas Blyde
I regularly advise readers to be adventurous with their wine diets, enjoying the taste of a far off worldly corner through the uncorked liquid.
Some of the most handpicked bottles lie below restaurants, patiently awaiting the diner's finger pat the on the list above. However, the barrier of an obese mark-up plus 12.5p/c service charge can render the selection from high end to house, leaving a bitter aftertaste to boot…
I have heard numerous reasons why a restaurateur might triple or quadruple the retail cost of wine: to meet an astronomical rent, to replace diner-damaged crystal glasses, to account for (rarely) irreplaceable corked bottles and above all, to justify the 'theatre' of dining out… Despite these accountant-like remarks, some of the finest lists I have seen reduce mark-ups on the more costly wines, enticing those not grazing on company credit cards into a whole new realm of sapid synergy. Even though such surprisingly successful restaurants are rare, there are ways for the diner to stay in the black.
Generally, the well known and easily pronounced will carry a premium, so divert from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Similarly, presently fashionable bottles, like Spain's Albariño, Austria's Grüner Veltliner and most costly of all, Italy's Gavi di Gavi will have steroid pumped prices. By contrast, those undeservedly unloved, like food friendly Riesling, hearty Greeks, boutique Bulgarians and polished Portuguese should offer rather good value, tradition and a memorable, possibly new experience. Finally, ask about the owner's tastes. It is likely their favourite wine will be amongst the cheapest bins of them all…
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