For years, I’ve been a huge fan of The Moth, the live storytelling show/competition that can be heard on The Moth Radio Hour on most public radio stations. A few months back, I decided to give it a shot myself and signed up for the Moth StorySLAM in San Francisco. The theme for the night was “Mystery,” which meant I had to come up with a brief story: a true, five-minute story centered on the theme. I threw my name in the hat, drank about four glasses of cheap Pinot Grigio to calm my nerves, had my name called and up I went to tell my story. Now I’m addicted.
Here’s a brief story about a hamster:
Telling a brief story Of My Daughter’s Lost Hamster Pairs With: Whatever This Relatively Gross Pinot Grigio Was.
Ok, so let’s face it, when you go to a regular ol’ dive bar (as opposed to a formally-designated Wine Bar), there’s no expectation you’ll have a plethora of Napa cult Cabernets to choose from. People go to bars for Life Medication, the kind of relief that’s found in the fast and effective consumption of grain alcohol. I get this. But if your standard bar offers everything from well scotch to 20-year-old single malt Glenfiddich, why can’t you get a decent bottle of wine along with the plonk?
There are a few reasons for this. The first is slightly illegal but happens all the time. Major spirits distributors will offer bar owners free mass-market wine from their portfolio in exchange for large orders from their spirits catalogue. Order enough high end vodka, we’ll throw in the Pinot Grigio for nothing. That amounts to $30 to $50 per bottle in pure profit, which surprisingly enough, has been known to take priority over quality.
Another reason is the quantity factor. Though a bottle of well gin, for example, is still more expensive than a mass-produced Pinot Grigio, there are 24 cocktails in a bottle of gin, as opposed to four glasses of wine in a bottle. That comes out to a 5x profit margin for the gin over the PG.
Franchised bars or large chains have another advantage they can use to get access to less expensive wine. With name recognition and a large consumer base behind them, chain bars can create their own private label wine. Though some private label bottlings can certainly be high quality, vineyard-designate wines, many are simply quick productions of inexpensive bulk wine with the chain’s name stamped on the label. Again, think lower demand and higher profit margin.