There can be very few who have not baulked at the extreme mark-ups on wine
demanded by many of the world’s restaurants. Whether it’s a 3 Michelin Star establishment
or a rustic, local family-owned place, the frequent 70% mark-up has finally got
diners up in arms and they’re calling for a revolution.
For years, the restaurant sector shrugged off the
concerns of consumers who have been expected to put up with it. However,
with the ‘bring your own bottle’ (BYOB) movement spreading around the world’s
top gastronomic cities, can we expect this to be the norm in the future?
What is BYOB?
low-end restaurants that were often perhaps unable to secure an alcohol licence; the BYOB movement
became popular with trendy pop-up restaurants and allowed customers to feel
involved in their dining experience by bringing bottles of their own wine. Eventually
gaining momentum in New York during the 1990s, the trend quickly got picked up
in Asia and Europe. However, fine dining establishments in London and the rest
of the UK have only recently become more open to this idea.
It’s a start, but
is it enough?
Foodies who were serious
about pairing wine with gastronomic delights wanted to avoid the significant mark-up, and would end up compromising on the wine choice that would have perfectly
matched the quality of the food being served. In the past 5 years though, BYOB has been adopted by some mainstream establishments and top Michelin Starred restaurants.
However, often those restaurants
that do allow BYOB might prefer to avoid openly advertising the privilege, so many
customers would not think to ask. As a result of this, if a customer has a
special bottle of wine they have been aging in their cellar, they may decide to
stay at home and cook rather than celebrating at their favourite eatery.
“Essentially, I got fed up of being mugged by punitive London mark-ups
on fine wine… I was no longer prepared to pay the egregious, nonsensical prices
that were being asked…In the end, I just ended up drinking wine at home and at
friends’ dinner parties.” - AWC ClientGrant Ashton, 67 Pall Mall Founder and CEO
doubt that allowing BYOB can also be beneficial to the restaurant; Some
restaurants have made some progressive steps by allowing BYOB, for a small
corkage fee, at lunch or dinner on their quieter days. Not only does this help to
keep their tables full, but if a customer invites friends, family, colleagues
or clients, then they too could potentially become customers in the future.
ultimate gastronomic experience
However, the paradoxical
view might be that dining out at a top restaurant is an enjoyable and memorable, sensory
experience. Browsing the wine list whilst mulling over the menu adds to the
excitement of the occasion, and also offers the opportunity to discover new
delights with the guidance of a knowledgeable sommelier - clearly a key source
of pleasure when dining out.
Whatever a customer’s motivation for wanting to bring their own bottle, many
restaurateurs have responded to the trend, such as: Chiltern Firehouse, which is currently one of London’s most
exclusive restaurants, 2* Michelin, The
Square in London, 3* Michelin, 8 ½
Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA in Hong Kong and 3* Michelin, Eleven Madison Park in New York.
Above: Chiltern Firehouse - currently one of London’s most exclusive restaurants.
Top restaurants like these and many more, are already allowing customers
to bring their own wine (for a corkage fee), while also offering more choices
by the glass or carafe, have more variety of wines, wine pairing menus and with
the invention of the Coravin device, are able to provide the opportunity to
drink older and rarer wines without having to buy the entire bottle.
“AllowingBYOB is certainly a positive step by restaurants and we’re increasingly
witnessing more demand for it. We’re regularly asked and we manage this on an
individual basis. If a customer wants to bring a particularly special bottle,
and we’re informed in advance, we’ll consider every request and only ask for a
suitable corkage fee.” – AWC client Romain
Audrerie, Head Sommelier at Chiltern
Dine in or dine
Today’s wine consumers are increasingly more knowledgeable about fine wine
than ever before; with many building cellars and significant wine collections
at home – (previously highlighted in First Press).
Perhaps 25 years ago dining out was one of the few ways to drink and learn
about fine wines. However, as the trend for drinking and storing more wine at
home has evolved, driven by the democratisation of wine through the internet
and other media, the role of the restaurant with regards to wine is also
evolving. Discerning wine enthusiasts are clearly no longer inclined to pay the
large mark-up, so the traditional model will need to change. We anticipate
that BYOB will become widely accepted, but will this be enough?
What do you think? Share your
thoughts via the button below.
Tuesday 6th October AWC Fine Wine buying’s team were invited by Moët
Hennessy to taste the new release of the 2006 vintage of Dom Pérignon
with their oenologist & winemaker Vincent Chaperon. Taking place in London
at M restaurant, just a few streets from the Bank of England, I gratefully
accepted their invitation.
Chaperon works alongside Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, Richard Geoffroy,
overseeing 600 hectares of Grand Cru and 1er Cru vineyards as well as nurturing
and maturing its extensive cellars. He has seen many changes come through Champagne
over the last decade, and used the tasting as an opportunity to talk about the
wider issues the region faces, including climate change, the influence of
technology and the global economy.
The effect of climate change
2006 was shown alongside a vertical of the four most recent vintages (2002 –
2005). This is the first time in Dom Pérignon’s history that it has been able
to offer five consecutive vintages. It made for a fascinating tasting - the
quintet offered a complete spectrum of styles that was in many ways to tasting
a flight of white Burgundies vintages. You could really see how the variations
of each growing season affected each wine. Vincent pointed out that this is
entirely intentional; Dom Pérignon’s ultimate goal is to create an expressive,
individual wine every year (remember they declared a 2003 when most other
houses did not), and Vincent believes the changing climate
of the region will allow them to achieve just that.
Since the 1990s the effects of climate change
have had a noticeable influence on the whole Champagne region. Ripeness levels
are up, yields are more consistent, and the impact of botrytis has drop
dramatically (we were told that in the 1970s it would not be unusual to lose
between 50% and 70% of the crop to botrytis, now a loss of even 15% would be a
shock). Longer summers have also allowed harvesting to take place over a
broader period, allowing individual plots to be picked at the optimal time
rather than rushed in before inclement conditions arrived. The diligent
checking of ripeness levels across vineyards and selective picking has long been
the norm for premium producers in other regions of France, but only in the last
decade or so has this been possible in the northerly latitudes of Champagne.
How the vintages compare
2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 vintage were categorised by Vincent into a trio
of distinctive groups:
is on its own as the most restrained of the recent vintages, showing what
Vincent referred to as a ‘classic’ level of ripeness and a high level of
acidity. I thought it was delicious with plenty of oyster shell minerality on
the nose and a taught, lean energy. It has shut down somewhat since I last
tasted it and will need a few more years for its biscuit and hazelnut richness
to show through. Unfortunately vintages in this style will become increasingly
less frequent due to climate change.
and 2005 lie at the other end of the spectrum. These are
broad wines with structure and weight that need time to evolve. Their showy
fruit masks their acidity and structure when young but it is most certainly
there. I thought the 2003 in particular has really evolved from a few years
ago, throwing off its abrupt exuberance for a rich, plump brioche character.
The upcoming P2 release of this wine (formerly known as Oenothèque) should be
and 2006 are, in Vincent’s words, about texture and succulence. These are
vintages made from fruit that was able to acquire complexity and concentration
right across the growing season, striking a balance between fruit, minerality
and weight. Much like the superstar 2002 at release, the
2006 is deliciously drinkable now yet has all the components to grow into a
seriously good Dom Pérignon. Meanwhile, the 2002 is now an absolute knockout – layered, rich and rounded with supremely
long, well balanced finish. A few years in the cellar should allow the 2006 to
shed its puppy fat and join it as this level.
thank Moët Hennessy and restaurant M for their hospitality; this was a
fascinating and enlightening tasting.
Fine wine is now enjoyed by much
wider social groups and age ranges than ever before and there is evidence all
around us that today’s wine consumers are increasingly intellectually and
pleasurably engaged with fine wine. Where in the past, the image of the wine
cellar was of a damp and underground cave hidden away where no one would want
to go or spend time, today the cellar has been transformed into a centre for
entertaining at the heart of the home. It is an asset and a talking point
taking pride of place not only for its capability to store wine perfectly but
for its design and ambience.
While appreciating and enjoying
the aesthetic value of a home cellar can offer great pride and pleasure, the
appeal of keeping wine at home goes beyond having direct access to a place
where you can store and age wines yourself. Imagine sharing the experience of
following your wines maturation process with friends and family, fully
appreciating the enjoyment and the history that can be had when comparing wines
and vintages over many years. A home cellar offers this opportunity as and when
you please, ultimately creating unforgettable experiences.
But if you don’t already have a
dedicated wine cellar, or if you have inherited one of those damp underground
spaces that you would like to transform, where do you start?
AWC Fine Wine’s CEO,
Stephen Williams, has spent the last 25 years advising wine connoisseurs on
developing wine cellars to match their personality and lifestyle and is delighted to share some pointers on how to tackle it.