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Let Wines Take Flight

By Robert Paul –

On a recent vacation, my wife and I stopped at an American bistro near Chadds Ford called Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square, PA near Delaware’s beautiful and historic Brandywine Valley (locals had recommended it). We had a wonderfully satisfying meal but also enjoyed an innovative approach to enjoying wine with each of our three courses.

Our server, recommended a glass of different wine with each coarse and said he like to surprise us with his choices. A glass arrived for each of us to accompany our individual choices of appetizer, entree and dessert. We tasted one another’s wines and commented on the pairings and tried to guess what we were drinking. At the close of the meal the server arrived with the list of wines we had enjoyed and we all chatted about his picks.

Anytime I can enjoy a flight of wines by the glass with a meal of three or more courses, I’m a happy oenophile. Why don’t more restaurants offer flights? Higher end restaurants, such as TRU in Chicago which offer prix fixe meals of 6-9 courses, regularly provide this option. It seems clear to me and many friends that the same sort of pairing should take place for prix fixe meals of 3 or four courses in a more moderate price. It would create a win win experience for the diner and the restaurant.

In parts of the country where Summer may be a bit slower in restaurants, a restaurateur might offer a 3 course meal for $29, with some premium entree choices that might increase the total by $5-$10. A selection of paired wines would be set at $15, a relative bargain over the bottle price and a saving over the $7-$12/ per glass price on the menu. The diner has the pleasure of enjoying a wine paired with each course and the satisfaction of comparing those offerings with others at the table as well as with the server.

I suggest that this offers patrons a reason to dine at this restaurant rather than at a competitor’s. Most customers would appreciate the apparent bargain on the matched wines as well as the discussion with the server over how satisfying they were. For a knowledgeable and congenial waiter, this probably means a larger tip. For the restaurateur, it probably means greater buzz in the community, free publicity in the local media, and more repeat business.

The wines offered should be in the moderate price range ($7-$16/bottle). The glass size should be small, offering patrons 4-ounce pours. There would be more than six servings from each bottle. So, the average profit per bottle would be $15-$20.

Meanwhile, for $30, a couple could enjoy six different wines which paired with the courses of their meal and were purchased for the same price as a single modestly priced bottle from the wine menu. This should clearly be a win-win situation for all involved.

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