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Why is wine so expensive in the US?

London, United...
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Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Have a 2 week holiday in Aug/Sept, starting San Francisco and ending up in NYC. As keen eating and drinking folk, we usually try to advance book somewhere local and interesting on at least alternate nights when we travel abroad. However, I'm astounded on how exorbitant wine is, even in mid-priced restaurants. Seems even the cheapest "house" starts around $35-40, which is a good 80% more than in most European countries. In the UK, it would have to be a pretty high end place to start their list mid-high £20.

Are there more reasonable places around other than those shown on TA? Food prices are what I would expect, but we are quite boozy, and wine prices are going to make this a very expensive trip!

San Diego
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1. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

It is very INexpensive to buy a bottle in a supermarket here!

Restaurants have always made a lot of their profit from selling wine so it has always been expensive to drink a lot while dining. Some places allow you to bring your own bottle and then charge a corkage fee.

We usually just get a glass of wine with dinner and only a whole bottle if with other folks but perhaps the local DEs have some secret places to tell you ?

Avila Beach...
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2. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Some restaurants offer low or no corkage fees, particularly for local wines. You may want to purchase your own wine and bring it to dinner rather than ordering at the restaurant (check fees in advance tho, sometimes they are very high).

London, United...
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3. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

I saw someone remark in a review "....and the corkage was only $12"

Eeeeek! Is all I can say! You would expect to pay about £2-3 here.

Obviously, wine is always cheaper in (what we call the) "off licence" or supermarket, but the difference is nothing like what would appear to be the case over there.

Los Angeles
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4. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

As mentioned, traditionally its a source of profit for restaurants. Also, you're a captive market, the restaurant owner can control the situation - i.e. if you want to eat here, and drink here, either pay my high price for wine, pay my corkage fee if you want to bring your own bottle, or don't eat here. I suppose the latter option would be most people's choice, but then they'll find similar situations at most other restaurants, so there aren't a lot of good options. Frankly, I'm more surprised that restaurant owners "across the pond" haven't caught on to this scheme.

London, United...
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5. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Competition is the answer to that one.

A restaurant with main courses priced about £15-20 with a wine list that started at £25 would have no customers. I'm surprised diners aren't more discerning in the US. Those mark-ups are outrageous.

San Francisco...
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6. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

first of all we dont think in pounds, secondly have you been here to CA yet or are you just planning to start a campaign against inflated wine prices ? As soon as you start a campaign against your VAT that you pay we will be happy to join you. 20% ? wow that is a lot to pay ? How can you guys do that ?

As was mentioned, we either have a glass each or there are quite a few where the restaurant does not have a huge restaurant or we take our own bottle.

I understand your question but I don't get your point of comparison, you do have the choice of just staying in your hometown and drinking your wine or coming here and not drinking. it is ok to not drink too much

Edited: 11 June 2013, 15:34
San Jose, California
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7. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Hey did you guys know that things are done differently in different countries? Sorry, couldnt help myself :-) It isnt that we arent discerning, it is just the way it is. Most Americans dont drink a lot of wine with dinner. Ordering a bottle for the table is becoming more common, but it still isnt really a regular thing except in higher end places.

Santa Monica...
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8. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

20 pounds is 35 dollars, so I'm not seeing the difference in price.

London, United...
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9. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Hey - not so defensive please! The 4 of us will be spending around $35,000 on accom, internal flights, eat, drink in the US, so please don't tempt us to cancel and do it here instead.

Even with "our VAT", prices are lower here (and I'm in London) - we don't slap a sales tax on the price on the menu. Neither do we tip as heavily.

I'm not "planning to start a campaign" - I'm simply stating the obvious. That by comparing menus/wine lists on the net, you pay a lot more for wine in restaurants than we do. And 98% of ours has to be imported.

if this thread is typical of the welcome we can expect, then maybe we will re-consider.

Santa Monica...
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10. Re: Why is wine so expensive in the US?

Many things in London are more expensive than here, it just is what it is. California wines, as an example: $12-$15 here, £50 there.