16-04-2015

67 Pall Mall and the price of wine

Most people probably shrug off a wine that costs $25 on a restaurant wine list but that they’ve seen for $10 in a store as just a cost of dining out. What you might not know is that the restaurant didn’t even pay $10 for that wine and it was more like $8 or less thus making their markup the rather typical 300%. It’s even worse for wine bars where 400% can be the normal increase.

The ironic part in all of this is that these ratios are maintained no matter how expensive the wine is. So say you’re of the means to enjoy a 1989 Haut Brion for around $1,000 whenever you might find such wines casually in a shop. In a restaurant this could easily top $3,000 or $4,000.

It happens that those with the means to afford such wines didn’t get to that point by being stupid with money (okay yes, minus the Kardashians or Lohans) and there are those within this rung of society that have essentially given up on ordering wines in restaurants as they refuse to pay what are truly outlandish markups.

Thus enters Grant Ashton who is the driving force behind 67 Pall Mall, a new wine club in London. While there is a £1,000 sign up fee and a yearly £1,000 membership fee, the upshot is that they charge prices for the wines that are much nearer to the actual street value. Of course there’s some food to be had as well and it’s all set in the swanky space of what was a former HSBC bank. If I was of such a state of income and in London more often, I’d rightly buy in to it as in various trips to London I feel that the markup on wines exceeds that of even San Francisco or New York mainly due to the common idea among restaurateurs revolving around, “because we can”.

A Financial Times article has more details but it was funny to see how small the wine world is as the director of the wine program is Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn who I had the pleasure of attending sommelier classes from and is someone who I hold in incredibly high regard for wine prowess. And then there was the mention of Nicole and Xavier Rolet being early members in the wine club. While I haven’t met them personally, I know their winery, Chêne Bleu well as I visited it last fall.

But overall, it seems to be a good start in regards to taste, concept, and those interested. Naturally I’ll be keeping an eye from the distance as I’m sure that membership list is already full.