When international investor Brian Hogan took an important client to a favorite Midtown restaurant last month, he hoped to impress them. His guest ordered a Chablis by the glass rather than the bottle, and the sommelier poured it with due deference.
But, when the usually mild-mannered client looked down at his glass, he was shocked by the minuscule size of the serving. He summoned the manager and asked him to bring over a measuring cup.
“He thought the pour was ridiculous and offensive,” Hogan said. “When he measured, it turned out to be only 4 ounces.” The manager quickly delivered more wine to the glass, along with a profuse apology.
Inflation has hit the bottle. All over the city, from taverns to fine restaurants, diners are doing double takes as they receive reduced pours of wine at increased prices. A standard bottle of wine contains 25.4 ounces — meaning a generous 6-ounce pour will yield four glasses, a standard 5-ounce glass will deliver five and a measly 4 ounces will eke out six. Diners say they’re increasingly being served paltry pours, and industry insiders confirm their suspicions.
“I worked for Danny Meyer and we always gave 6 ounces,” said a sommelier at a popular new downtown restaurant. “When I got here I was quickly corrected and instructed to pour only 5.”
A somm at another Manhattan hot spot confided that “During COVID, we were told to make sure we got five glasses out of a bottle, rather than the four we were used to getting.”
“All our wine prices went up … but we felt that customers will forgive you if you overcook their meat a bit, but will not forgive you if you skimp,” said Vladimir Kolotyan, a partner in both restaurants. “So we added one dollar to some of the glass prices and left some the same, but never touched the size.”
The stingy servings are creating awkward situations.
An Upper West Side entertainment attorney had some explaining to do to his ex-wife after she saw a bill from his dinner with their young adult children.
“She was disturbed by the number of wine glasses consumed, but I explained to her that we actually drank the same amount of alcohol we usually do; we just had to order more glasses,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous for personal reasons.
Even those in the wine industry, while sympathetic to restaurant’s rising costs, are disturbed by the trend.
“I’m willing to pay for quality and I feel shortchanged when I receive a small pour,’’ said Mark Fang, a 41-year-old wine blogger and certified sommelier who lives in Hell’s Kitchen. He recently dined at Marea and ordered an $18 glass of Grüner Veltliner that he estimated was a mere 4 ounces.
“Normally I get only one glass of wine, but this time the pour was so small it didn’t last past the appetizer,” he said. “I like to enjoy wine with my entree, so I ordered a second glass … I know what bottles cost, and that hurts.”
(A spokesperson for Marea’s Altamarea restaurant group said: “The standard operating procedure for pouring a glass of wine at Marea is 5 ounces. We do acknowledge that there is an occasional margin of error to take into account.”)
Karen Harris, 59, who lives on the Upper East Side and is an account executive for a wine importer and distributor, said that her entire portfolio has increased in price for the first time in four years. Still, she’s stunned by shrinking servings.
“I go to some places and think, ‘Are they serious?’” she said. “I’m blown away by how small the pours are.’’
Many restaurateurs insist that part of the problem is the trend towards using larger, better stemware that dwarfs the appearance of the wine.
Maximilian Riedel, CEO and president of glassware company Riedel, think COVID isolation is also to blame.
“This is an issue of perception,’’ he told The Post. “For the past two years, we have all [been] helping ourselves to what’s in [our] cellars. Now that we are returning to in-person dining, a server’s measured pour likely appears more restrained.’’
To ensure servers hit their mark, Riedel glasses have a subtle indicator in the curve of the glass at what the company sees as the ideal pour: 5 ounces.
But some restaurateurs insist that 5 ounces isn’t enough for their demanding clientele.
“I hear that in the city they are lowering servings and jacking up prices,’’ said Zach Erdem, owner of Southampton hot spots 75 Main and Blu Mar. “Here, if you give people 5 ounces, they will scream at you!’’