A $17 glass of wine is normal at Bay Area restaurants now. Here’s why – San Francisco Chronicle
When the late Zuni Café owner Judy Rodgers was alive, she had a directive for her restaurant’s wine director: There should always be plenty of wines available for $12 a glass.
Now, the $12 glass has become elusive, said Zuni wine director Thierry Lovato. His new affordable-wine benchmark is $14, which is the lower end of the range on Zuni’s current by-the-glass list. Whereas in 2016 the average price of a glass of wine at Zuni was $13.73, it’s now $17.40.
The trajectory of wine glass prices at Zuni is reflective of restaurants throughout the Bay Area. Similar hikes have occurred at restaurants like Rich Table ($13.81 per glass on average in 2016; $17.35 in 2022) and Nopa ($12.94 in 2016; $18.11 in 2022).
This industry-wide trend is not necessarily reflective of restaurants taking a higher margin on wine sales. Rather, it’s due largely to the fact that the cost of wine has skyrocketed. “It’s very simple,” said Lovato. “It’s been harder to serve the things we used to serve because the price has gone through the roof.”
By nearly every metric, dining out is more expensive than it used to be. Food prices were more than 10% higher in November 2022 than in November 2021, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and “food-away-from-home prices” (i.e., food not purchased as groceries) are expected to rise an additional 4%-5% in 2023.
But the price of a glass of wine at many Bay Area restaurants has spiked more dramatically than overall food costs, a Chronicle review shows. Between 2016 and 2022, at restaurants like Zuni, Rich Table, Kokkari and Chez Panisse, the average price of a glass of wine rose by 20%-25%.
Kokkari has worked to keep wine prices reasonable, though the average glass of wine has risen to over $15.
Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle
At some point during the last seven years, a $17 glass of wine started to seem normal.
Certain wines that customers always clamor for, like Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, are becoming especially inaccessible. “To find a good bottle of Napa Cab for $18 (a glass) is getting difficult,” said William Boumier, the general manager at Kokkari.
Champagne, a perennially popular order at Zuni, presents a similar dilemma. Back in 2016, Lovato was able to offer glasses of Champagne for $16. Now, he said, it’s nearly impossible to find bottles that he can list for less than $22 per glass. (One of the Champagnes on Zuni’s current glass list is $35.)
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