Provisions: Cultivating Opportunities with a Wine by the Glass Program
Wine by the glass offerings can be a strong contributor to a club’s beverage program.
A well-compiled "by the glass" (otherwise known as BTG) wine list is a balancing act of:
complementing club menu offerings,
recognizing member preferences, and
providing a glimpse into the club's wine program as a whole.
BTG offerings are an important subcategory of club beverage programs that take in the culture, tradition, and vision of a club. When paired with winemaker dinners, wine club receptions, and holiday and seasonal events, BTG programs can create a fun environment to experience great wine, great food, and great value, thereby enhancing member interest and engagement.
A Nielsen Company study found that 44% of American adults drink wine and more than 50% of those consumers order wine by the glass when dining out, and 20% of that number were wine-drinkers who say they order wines by the glass only.
What are consumers looking for in BTG offerings?
A Napa technology study states that value is the most important factor considered (39.5%) seconded by the opportunity to try new wines (29.6%) and the third highest reason was individual taste preference (27.2%).
Providing BTG options can enhance the member dining experience, as there may be times when the commitment to ordering a full bottle of wine may not be appealing to those who prefer to enjoy pairing food courses with different wines. It could also encourage solo diners, who may wish to enjoy just a glass or two with dinner. Or perhaps you simply have a group of members dining together who all have different tastes for wine!
Members appreciate the flexibility of these programs, which open up a whole new world to those who may want to explore different wine producing regions, varietals, and winemaker styles without the cost and commitment of purchasing multiple bottles.
What should be on your "Wines By the Glass" List?
Wine Enthusiast notes that industry-wide, wines offered by the glass are responsible for 75% of all wine sales in full service establishments. Wine drinking enjoyment shows no sign of slowing down as more citizens come of legal drinking age. Last year The Wine Council Market found that millennials, defined as the 79 million Americans aged 21-38, drank 42% of all wine in the United States.
So what should be included on a BTG list to take advantage of these statistics?
Certainly, a list recognizing member preferences and one that is complementary to the type of cuisine served should be considered. Since every club is different in region, demographic, and type, those considerations should be noted as well. For example, a club situated in the Pacific Northwest would likely feature a strong representation of pinot noir.
There is no “magic number” of different wines that should be offered by the glass; this will ultimately be determined by the preferences of the wine drinking population of a club, but a very loose guideline for varietal representation as proposed by UNCORKD* would comprise of:
4% Dessert/Fortified Wines such as late-harvest Riesling, port, sherry, madeira
6% Sparkling Wines such as prosecco, cava, and Champagne
30% White Wines
60% Red Wines
Cultivating a list that excites and encourages experimentation is a continually evolving endeavor. No different than the full wine list, BTG lists are ever-changing documents that need to be re-worked often as new releases become available, prices and vintages change, and seasonal offerings come on the market. Revising BTG lists frequently will ensure that offerings jive with the full wine list and are accurately edited, proofed, and easy to read.
Now, to Price and Pour Accordingly...
Many clubs tend to value price their higher volume BTG offerings such as “house” selections; typically the bottle price is divided by four to arrive at the glass price and in general the lower the price of the bottle, the higher the markup factor will be.
Lower priced bottles are usually recognizable brands that provide high sales and low margins. Some clubs employ a sliding price structure in order to offer more expensive or “trophy” wines by the glass. The higher priced the wine, the lower the markup.
Since more clubs are recognizing that F&B operations are considered an amenity to the club and can therefore accept higher margins on top-tier wine sales, BTG pricing can be very competitive and creative in order to offer unique wines that may not be otherwise economically feasible to offer in a public dining setting.
Beverage directors can also consider multiple sizes of pour options: perhaps a 2.5 oz in addition to the standard 5 oz pour, or even a pour by the ounce. These smaller pours present an opportunity for the member to experience a wine without committing to a full glass, thus providing a great value and a unique experience.
Keeping it Fresh
When offering wine by the glass, freshness and storage are absolutely critical to taste and waste. Storing selections at the top of their quality can be achieved with new wine preservation technologies such as Cruvinet and Enomatic. In addition to dispensing pre-programmed pours, these systems will maintain the proper temperature and prevent oxidization, keeping opened bottles servable for at least several days, ensuring that the last sip tastes as good as the first.
Less costly stopper-based vacuum preservation systems can help maintain the freshness of unlimited bottles, presenting members with the opportunity of enjoying their personal favorite bottle of vino in multiple visits to the club.
Author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that “wine is bottled poetry”. Consider the BTG list as an invitation for members and guests to savor and enjoy the many sonnets, stanzas, and couplets that wine tasting offers.
*UNCORKD Digital wine & beverage menus
Chef Mary Howley is the culinary consultant to the RCS Hospitality Group and a former Executive Chef of her own catering company, several country clubs, and fine dining restaurants. She studied throughout Europe and honed her skills on the East Coast working with a myriad of culinary styles. She had the honor to serve as research and development chef for Food Unlimited, and held the position of Pastry Chef in two James Beard Dinner Events.
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