Pleasure without measure?

I HAVE always been a great lover of ‘free pouring’ – the absence of using fixed measures of alcohol.

Even though it was technically against the law, it was well practised in my restaurants in the UK. It must have been the Spanish influence even all those years ago.

But even with this method it was possible to pour exactly the same measure into each glass. Apart from alcohol, pubs and restaurants started to use legally (or voluntarily) measure marks on the wine glasses.

But most bars and restaurants here free pour without such guidelines, which leads to differences that are quite noticeable.

Last week I had occasion to be in three different establishments of varying standard. One was a place I pop into quite often. A family run eatery of few tables and fewer customers, but a warm welcome and a decent glass of Rosé, well chilled but the measure is half as much again as I would pour.

They must be getting four glasses out of the bottle at the most: and at €3.95 a glass they are selling the bottle of wine for €15. Makes sense even if it looks generous.

The second place was a restaurant that is very busy and whose prices are quite high.

A glass of red wine from Ribera del Duero (the price I do not know as I was being invited – but I imagine around the €5 mark) came in a modern glass with a wider base and a curved side, the sort of glass used by most upmarket establishments.

I tell my staff to fill the glass to just above the curve, which gives five good glasses from the bottle. But on this occasion the measure was below the curve which would give the house six glasses to the bottle.

Making a bottle of house wine worth around €30 a bottle, which I am sure we would all say is too much. However I did ask them to fill it to above the curve which they did without question.

The third place was a very modern tapas/raciones/and restaurant operation in Marbella. Very professionally run.

We had a bottle of wine which was their house wine at €21 from Castillo de Mancha, which wasn’t particularly good. The red wine by the glass was pleasant enough and at €3.50 a glass was good value. The measures poured were also correct.

Now dear reader, you may have got down to the bottom of this article and ask if there is a point to it?

Well, my point is that whatever price you charge, or quantity you give, the chances are it is normally more expensive to drink wine by the glass than the bottle.

This last place was charging less for drinking by the glass than the bottle. White by the glass at €3 means €15 a bottle, red at €3.50 means €17 for the bottle.

With the former being €21 a bottle and the latter €25 it’s obvious which makes more sense to the consumer.

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