Archive for March, 2010
I recently read this post and photo montage of great wine bars in the world from Travel and Leisure Magazine Europe’s Best Wine Bars and was amazed at the diversity of concepts. I’ve been contacting many wine bars in the Washington, D.C. area recently about their special events and educational wine class offerings and I’m noticing that they all have different concepts of what a wine bar should be. Some local wine bars have a chef and a full menu, while others simply serve charcuterie and glasses of wine. The majority have beer programs as well, but the commitment to beer varies across the board. Almost all have some type of specialty wine preservation system like Enomatic that uses Nitrogen or Argon as inert gases that displace air in the bottle and preserve the wine to some extent.
The question is how does one differentiate what designates a “wine bar” vs. a restaurant? If a restaurant has a bar and they primarily sell wine, does that make the restaurant a wine bar as well? If a wine bar has a chef and also sells wine, does that simply mean it’s a restaurant that sells wine as well? And what about the situation where a wine bar/restaurant also has a license to sell off-premise wine and beer – shouldn’t that be called a wine bartailer? In Virginia, there’s the interesting combination of a restaurant and a separate establishment next door of an off-premise wine retailer. Due to unusual laws, this allows consumers to walk into the wine store, purchase a bottle of wine and consume it next door in the restaurant dining area. Virginia doesn’t allow consumers to bring their own wine into a restaurant (also known as “corkage”) but it does allow these special establishments. These type of restaurants normally charge a fee for the privilege, but it is usually must cheaper to do this than to purchase a wine off a restaurant’s wine list.
I’m going to be doing more research into wine bars and their special event requirements as a I spend more time marketing my services as a wine professional for hire as a wine educator. Future blog posts will cover how wine bars increase their profitability through special events and special programs including private events. Hopefully, this information will help both existing wine bars and potential wine bar owners in their decision-making and will increase the quality and revenue generation of wine bars throughout the world – Cheers!
Embassy of France – TasteDC Beaujolais Celebration 2004
Living in Washington, D.C. has many benefits, especially the fact that almost every country in the world has an Embassy in our city – and many either organize or allow for events such as wine tastings. I’m not exactly sure which was my first Embassy wine tasting experience, but I do remember sometime in the 90’s attending an “Opera and Wine Tasting” at the Spanish Embassy..or was that the Spanish Ambassador’s Residence? What I remember is that it was very dressy, the Ambassador was not there, and the opera singer kept forgetting the words to the opera..oh, and there was plenty of wine to sample! Since that time, I personally have organized over 40 events at Embassies through my company TasteDC and I’ve learned quite a bit about the do;s and dont’s of organizing an event at an Embassy?
1) Choose Wines from a Variety of Growing Regions in the Country
This seems like common sense, but unless I’m organizing a region specific event like the Champagne event or the Beaujolais Nouveau events I’ve held at the French Embassy, it’s best to have a broad cross section of wines from various regions.
2) Hire a Caterer Who Understands the Cuisine and Preparation
I’ll tread on this one lightly – I once hired a French caterer to prepare the cheese fondue at a Swiss Embassy Chocolate, Cheese and Wine Event..and the fondue clumped together! Wow, did the Embassy official who looked at the mess get upset – it was also very hard to get on people’s plates, oh well. It also took us almost 2 hours to figure out how to turn on their oven in the basement kitchen, it needed an old-fashioned match to light the pilot..I could go on and on about mis-haps with Embassy kitchens (food ending up in the purses of Embassy staff, chefs not showing up,etc..), but I also want to include that most of the time things have worked out well. If you’ve ever organized a large event, things will go wrong, that’s to be expected.
3) Be Ready to Bear the Financial Risk
After 10 years of organizing these events for 200+ people, I just decided that it took too much energy to continue to run these hectic events – not only are they time-consuming and difficult, but I was at financial risk. Normally, an embassy charges some kind of rental fee, and of course, the caterer, food, wine and staff are all fixed costs, so many events don’t even break-even until 100 tickets are sold. When I first began holding events at embassies in 1998, there were very few organizations doing so for profit. Of course, once my business took off, every other event promoter in DC began to contact the embassies and do the same or similar events. Sales declined, prices came down, and frankly the amount of sweat and effort it took to make a successful event just didn’t make sense.
OK, this was fun going down memory lane..I think I’ll write more about Embassy tastings in the D.C. area – if you are curious about what it’s like to work with an Embassy, leave me a comment or email me – oh, here are some more photos of an Austrian wine tasting at the Austrian Embassy – – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler