Steve Cuozzo is so fed up with wine lists in New York he hankers for BYOB. Which I do, too — but since BYOB is technically illegal here, we have to all pay corkage, which is often unpleasantly expensive. (I’d be happy paying $30 corkage on a $100 bottle of wine, but I don’t generally rock up to restaurants with $100 bottles of wine. If I have a perfectly good $10 bottle, I don’t want to pay $30 corkage on it.)
I can solve the mystery for Cuozzo about why Pizza Fresca on East 20th Street has a ridiculously long and expensive wine list: the answer to the riddle is a certain Swiss bank whose US headquarters are around the corner and whose seven-figure bonuses have to keep more restaurants in gravy than just those owned by Danny Meyer.
But I do find it annoying, with Cuozzo, when you walk into a Greek restaurant and find an all-Greek wine list, and even more annoying when a wine list is so over-the-top that anything under $100 seems like slumming it. And as for Peter Luger — well, that’s just atrocious.
In any case, Daniel Boulud seems to have found the answer to all our problems: rent out 36-bottle wine cellars to your patrons! That way they can be sure of having exactly the wine they want, and pay no corkage! Of course, this being Daniel Boulud, the rental isn’t cheap: $15,000 per year.
I’ll do the math for you. Let’s say that a wine which retails for $150 sells at a restaurant for $400. Then a diner drinking such a wine would save $250 a pop by going into his own private cellar rather than ordering off the wine list. How many such bottles would he have to order to justify a $15,000 per year wine rental? 60 — or five per month. Which is doable. I certainly know people who order five $400 bottles of wine per month in restaurants, although I’m not sure I know that many people who do so in just one restaurant. But if you’re not the kind of person who orders $400 bottles of wine on a regular basis, you’re probably not the sort of person who Daniel wants to rent his wine cellars to in any case.