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Storm in a wine bottle

One wine, many prices. Are restaurants in the city being fair in charging you differently for the same bottle of wine? We find out...

india Updated: Jun 15, 2012 02:20 IST
Charu Sharma
Charu Sharma
Hindustan Times

Ever wondered why you are not charged a standard price for the same bottle of wine at different restaurants? You cough up Rs 15,000 for a bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial Brut if you happen to be dining at the Smoke House Room, while your friend dining at the Orient Express in Taj Palace pays just Rs 8,000. Unfair it may sound, but the wine market mechanism is such that how much money you shell out for a bottle of wine depends on how the place you are dining at has procured it.

Abhijeet Mukherjee, director (operations), DLF Restaurants Ltd, explains how the difference in price is based on the way the wine’s been imported. “There are two ways wine is procured — duty-free and duty-paid. While five stars procure duty-free wines, stand alone restaurants pay heavy duties and end up charging their customers higher prices,” he says. Wine sommelier Magandeep Singh says, “It can be a valid argument to an extent, but it’s unfair to increase the price manyfolds.”

Restaurateur Shiv Karan Singh, who runs Smoke House Room, however defends, “You are allowed to spend 5% of your foreign exchange earning on procuring duty free liquor. Our foreign exchange earning is very low, so we pay heavy import duties and spend almost three times more than what a five star spends on a bottle. How can we charge the same price from guests?” Chef and owner of Diva, Ritu Dalmia too blames authorities for the disparity. “The system is ridiculous. A reasonable and equal amount of duty should be charged from standalones as well as five-stars,” she says. But then how does that account for different rates across even the same category of hotels/restaurants?

Wine consultant at the Shangri-La, Harshal Shah, says, “Generally, restaurants charge a mark-up of anywhere between 200-300% of the cost at which they get the bottle. The principle followed is that costlier the wine, the smaller the margin on it.” Hence, actually, an eatery makes more money on a cheap bottle of wine than on a costlier one. Shah adds, “ You can’t price a costly wine three times more than its price. There will be no takers.” Ignorance among wine drinkers is also a reason behind price discrepancies, says wine advisor Ankit Kumar. “Delhiites pick wines not according to ingredients or the manufacturers, but by its price,” he says.

How to choose the right wine
Planning to dine out and indulge in some good wine, but don’t know what wine you should opt for? We tell you five things that will come handy when you choose from that extensive wine list

Decide your budget: Consultant sommelier at the Shangri-La, Harshal Shah, says, “Deciding how much money you would like to spend for a bottle will help you narrow down your options quickly.” Do not pick up a wine bottle just because it has a hefty price tag. Keep ingredients and manufacturer in mind.

Understand your taste: Wine sommelier at the Smoke House Room, Davide Zubani says, “Wines come in three categories — light, medium and full bodied.” Light bodied wines have 7-11% alcohol content, medium bodied have 12 - 12.5% alcohol while full bodied have 13-14% alchohol.

Pair it right: Getting the right combination of food and wine is very important to make the most of a meal. So, if you are eating something light with subtle tastes, choose a white wine. However, go for a red wine if you are eating a heartier meal as the food will be complimented by a strong wine with its own flavour.

Explore and Experiment: Experimenting can sometimes be fun. Change is the spice of life, says Shah, adding, “While you may prefer to drink the most famous names from that exotic wine list, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go for the unknown ones. And that’s when a wine sommelier can be of great help.”

Don’t hesitate to ask: Zubani adds, “Most places that serve wine have someone with a fine knowledge of it. So, if you’re confused and unable to decide on the right pairing, ask for help.”

Wine rates vary and how

Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial Brut MRP: Rs6,110
Smoke House Room Rs 15,000
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Rs 9,500
Megu, The Leela Palace Rs 9,000
The Imperial Rs 12,000
The Claridges Rs 8,995
Orient Express, Taj Palace Rs 8,000

Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse 2008 MRP: Rs 3,500
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Rs 6,000
Threesixty Degrees, The Oberoi Rs 7,500
The Claridges Rs 6,995
Setz Rs 7,800

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 MRP: Rs 4,400
The Claridges Rs 6,195
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Rs 7,500
Smoke House Room Rs 9,200

Pinotage Nederburg, South Africa 2009 MRP: Rs 1,500
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace Rs 4,000
Orient Express, Taj Palace Rs 3,200
Diva Rs 2,800

Why can’t our restaurants let us bring our own wine?
Restaurants in several countries around the world have the concept of ‘Bring Your Own Wine’. They simply charge a corkage fee — for opening and serving the wine, while allowing diners to drink from the bottle they brought with them. “Corkage can be anything between 10 to 50 dollars or euros, depending on the level of the restaurant. A fine dining place will charge more than a cafe. It is most prevalent in Europe,” says wine sommelier, Magandeep Singh.

This may sound like a great concept, but unfortunately, no restaurant in Delhi allows it here. Harshal Shah, consultant sommelier at the Shangri-La, explains why. “Liquor licence norms in India do not permit guests to bring their own liquor from outside and consume it in a restaurant. And no exception has been made for wine.” “It’s a sad situation. For us to be able to change this, authorities will first need to lower the taxes so that wines are priced reasonably. Only then can we take this second step,” he adds.

Wine menus in the capital, at a glance
Le Cirque, The Leela Palace
Number of wines by bottle: 399
Number of wines by glass: 41
Costliest: Petrus Rs 3,99,000
Cheapest: Himiko Plum Wine Rs 1,200

Orient Express, Taj Palace
Number of wines by bottle: 382
Number of wines by glass: 22
Costliest: Chateau Petrus grand vin 1996 Rs 1,99,900
Cheapest: Cabernet Sauvignon fratelli 2011 Rs 1,800

Number of wines by bottle: 14
Number of wines by glass: 25
Costliest: Harlan Estate Rs 60,000
Cheapest: Merlot Sula 2011 Rs 1,400

Number of wines by bottle: 162
Number of wines by glass: 13
Costliest: 1999, Château Lafite Rothschild, Premier Grand Cru Classé Pauillac, Bordeaux Rs 1,55,000
Cheapest: Merlot, 2011 Fretelli Rs 2,300

Smoke House Room
Number of wines by bottle: 86
Number of wines by glass: 19
Costliest: Château Latour Grand Vin Premier Grand Rs 82,000
Cheapest: Pago de la Jaraba Azagador Crianza Tempranillo Rs 2,300

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First Published: Jun 14, 2012 18:32 IST

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