Sunday, May 2, 2010

Indian Wine Snob

There are typically three price points when ordering wine in a restaurant in India; in ascending order of price; (1) domestic, (2) “cheap” imported, and (3) ultra expensive imported. Since wine storage doesn’t seem to be skill yet mastered (we had dinner with a friend returning to the states last night, ordered a bottle of red, and had to wait for it to come down to room temperature; once it did, it was actually quite pleasant). Based on this storage issue, group (3) has a risk/reward proposition that makes it a no-win situation. This group of wines is typically fun for the sole purpose of seeing exactly how much they’re trying to charge, which routinely tops $100 – $200 for a wine you could probably buy at Binny’s in Chicago for no more than $15. The wine mark-up has totally new meaning in a place with a 100% duty on imported liquor from some countries. That clause “from some countries” seems to be a relatively new concept and has lead to the creation of group (2). For some reason, certain Italian and Chilean wines have come down in price; I would assume there’s been some sort of new trade agreement in palace. I’m not the type to proactively do that kind of research, so let’s just assume that as a fact. Thankfully, you can now get some bottles in restaurants in the $35 range. With this group, you’re overpaying for the quality of the wine, but the only other option is Indian domestic. This group is typically priced around $5 cheaper by the bottle (i.e., not low enough to typically incent a purchase).

Once you've made your selection in a restaurant, it’s always a good idea to have three or four backups ready (which likely comprises the entire wine menu). I’ve yet to order an imported wine where the waiter claimed it was in stock (keep in mind, I’m not ordering from group (3)). Automatically, your selection is out of stock, but there always seems to be French wine available. This French wine typically has the varietal splashed across label. I don’t know much about French wine, but I do know enough to know the varietal is typically assumed based on the region and not nearly as important as on an American label. Basically, these wines aren’t France’s finest. Typically, if there’s nothing else to your liking, you can politely ask them to go back and check to see if there might be one bottle of your original selection. Magically, they’ll either appear a few minutes later with your original selection or some other option that was likely not part of the original menu but priced at the same point. At this point, I feel like a sucker for just not going with the Indian domestic but too proud (or cheap) to switch over; it’s going to be no worse than what they’ve put in front of you. In the end, that extra $5 for the import might be the smarting pricing decision the restauranteur has made.

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