This week we’ve turned our thoughts to the credit crunch and how you can get good value when you dine out. The wine list is a particularly tricky area for most of us and, if you’re like me, you probably choose the second cheapest bottle off the list and hope for the best. (My reasoning being a combination of not wanting to look cheap while not wanting to be ripped off by those high-price bottles further down.) Yet is this the best strategy for getting a good-value bottle of wine? Are the more popular cheaper bottles just over-priced plonk, or are the higher-priced vintages really a clever trick to line restaurateurs’’ pockets?
We researched the prices of wines in four restaurants; two mass-market chains (Pizza Express and Café Rouge) and two top-end chains (Chez Gerard and Gaucho). We found that the more you pay the better value you get, with the best value wines found in the mass-market restaurants.
For example, in the mass market chains you can expect to pay £15 for a bottle of wine that would retail for around £5 in the supermarket. If you can pay £20, you typically get a bottle of wine that retails for £10, so every extra pound you pay above the cheapest price is giving you an extra pound’s value of wine. This principle generally held for more expensive wines. (For those of you who like the maths, the wine list price is typically the retail price plus £10.)
We found a similar message in the top-end chains, although they don’t provide quite as good value. For the cheaper bottles in the top-end chains, you can expect to pay £17.50 for a bottle of wine that would retail for around £5 in the supermarket. If you can pay £25, you typically get a bottle of wine that retails for £10, so for every extra pound you pay above the cheapest price you get an extra 67p value of wine. Again the principle held for more expensive wines. (The maths here is that the wine list price is typically 1.5 times the retail price plus £10.)
We checked both white and red wines and both show a similar trend. So my strategy of purchasing the second-cheapest wine is not really getting me good value. That’s definitely a point to remember the next time I’m filling out my expenses return.