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Second-cheapest wine on the menu isn’t a bad choice after all, study says

The age-old maxim regarding the second-cheapest wine on the menu and its relative shortcomings is well known. However, a new study may just have put paid to the idea that the second most-reasonable plonk is a poor choice for drinkers. 

second cheapest wine on the menu

As the common scenario plays out; you’re at a restaurant and, not wanting to appear overly thrifty, you opt for the second-cheapest wine on the menu. The problem is, of course, that’s restaurants are aware of this and thus the theory goes that markups on these bottles will typically be the highest.

Yet a recent study conducted by the American Association of Wine Economists has cast doubt over whether this is actually the case.

Studying wine lists in 249 London restaurants, researchers found, after cross-referencing prices using Wine Searcher, that the cheapest and most expensive bottles typically have the lowest margins.

From the cheapest, markups gradually increase as the wines get more expensive, before peaking somewhere near the middle of the list. They then embark on a descent in terms of markup as the most expensive bottle is reached. Think of it like climbing a mountain to the middle of the menu and then scaling back down the other side to reach the most expensive bottle.

Though the study clearly had its limitations – most notably the geographical specificity of London restaurants – if its conclusions ring true largely across the board, then it would seem that the cheapest and most expensive wines are the wisest choices in terms of markup.

Douglas Blyde, author of Wine List Confidential, told db:

“Venues are increasingly inclined to make an effort on their house wine, particularly by the glass, ramping up, like Authentique Tuffnell Park, the direct sourcing and import of such high volume bottles so what is listed actually shows decent savings and profit while still being accessible for the guest. Even amid the opulence of The Ritz, you can drink an interesting (in a good way) Turkish white for £40 per bottle inclusive of the service charge. Jacob Kenedy at Bocca di Lupo puts it nicely – ‘we reduced our margins for our least expensive wines to ensure when people who have been hurt financially over lockdown come eat with us, at least the bill isn’t too painful.’”

Meanwhile, a new study has found that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol on a daily basis could help to lower the risk of heart disease. You can read our full report here.

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