In the restaurant/bar industry parlance, “BTG” means “by the glass,” and refers to bottles of wine that establishments open to serve in individual servings to customers. While everybody knows that the mark-up on wine by the bottle in restaurants can seem pretty steep (up to 200-300% depending on many factors), but keep in mind that you’re also paying for an additional 15% on-premise tax, the cost of the restaurant to inventory that particular perfect accompaniment to your dish, the stemware to serve it in, a sommelier to help you choose it, a server to pour it and keep it on ice and someone to wash the glass after you’re through. So cut your favorite restaurateur some slack when you peruse the wine list. They’re putting a lot into your enjoyment of the evening.
But when you buy your wine by the glass, you just need to go ahead and prepare yourself to shell out a markup that can approach 6x the cost. In fact, there may be many opportunities where you’re better off ordering an entire bottle and corking it up to carry home after a few glasses. You did know you can do that in Tennessee, didn’t you? More and more restaurants are starting to offer a compromise in the form of “quartinos,” a small carafe that holds a quarter of a liter. At about 8 ounces, that’s more than your normal heavy pour of a single glass (unless you’re using the bad boy pictured up there to the right), but usually at a discount somewhere between BTG and bottle pricing.
It’s interesting to see some recent trends among BTG consumers as published by restaurantsciences.com. This research company tracked over 10 million BTG transactions and discovered some cool trends. First of all, despite all the members of the so-called ABC Club, almost half of the white wine ordered by the glass is still Chardonnay, and we pay an average of almost $8.00 per glass for it at upscale casual restaurants. Other popular whites are predictable with Pinot Grigio representing about a quarter of all white BTG purchased at an average of $8.30/glass and Sauvignon Blanc coming in a string third with a 13% share at about $9.00 a serving. What might be surprising is the range of average cost from family dining to fine dining which comes in at a range of almost 250%. Of course, most of this is the result of a higher quality wine list at Chez Frou Frou vs. at Tipsey McStumbles, but you can expect a higher markup at better restaurants.
Here’s one pro user tip that I noticed from the Restaurant Sciences data: apparently consumers are willing to pay on the average of 25% more for a glass of Pinot Gris vs. Pinot Grigio at an upscale casual establishment, $10.53/glass for the Gris and $8.30 for the Grigio. Here’s a hint for you…THEY’RE THE SAME DAMNED THING!! If you want to pay extra two bucks for the French word for the same grape over the Italian name, that’s your prerogative. Just please don’t get so drunk that you go home with your date and contribute to the gene pool.
Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. As far as red wines BTG go, Cabernet is king at about 30%, with Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Malbec coming in at the 10-20% range with regard to market share. Crunching the numbers, it looks like red Zinfandel may well be one of the best bargains in red wine. It is an especially food-friendly wine, but not as popular as some other varietals, so it’s a deal at an average of a little more than $8.00 glass. Zin pairs well with almost any kind of meat, and even goes well with pasta and some firmer fishes like tuna. Go out and get yourself a good meal some time this week and order a glass of Zinfandel. You’ll know you’re getting a good wine at a decent deal. Or even better, order the whole bottle!