Saturday, 12 September 2015

Wine Prices of Restaurant Grotesk in Helsinki: A Momentary Lapse of Riesling

"A Momentary Lapse Of Reason", one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums... A momentary lapse of reason. Also a very nice English phrase which is sometimes used to define "losing mind for a moment".

There is a restaurant in Helsinki, Grotesk, which the restaurant manager and sommelier Paul Hickman (and a good friend before all) started to sell the restaurants' wines for such prices with a very unexpected calculation method since more than a year now. Now I will write here his method of calculation. You will probably think that he lost his mind, maybe he has "a momentary lapse of reason". But no, actually what happens in Grotesk is a momentary lapse of Riesling!

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Few days ago I met Paul in Grotesk and quickly talked about this calculation on paper. So when you check the wine list, you start to see prices like 30 something or 40 something or 50 something euros etc... Of course depending on the type and quality of wine, there are higher prices too and anyway because of the high rates of rent and other costs, it is simply hard to survive as a restaurant so restaurants might keep the wine prices high, even some of them very but very high. But now check how Grotesk's wine prices are calculated:

The retail price from the importer has a Value Added Tax (=VAT=Arvonlisävero=ALV=24%) "in it", so to calculate, before the wine goes into the wine list, this tax gets excluded, now what you have is the price without tax. Now a certain margin added on the price which is 20€ for every wine regardless of retail price, quality or reputation. After that the VAT (ALV) added on top of that final number and there we go, we now have the price to be presented in the wine list. Sounds complicated right? So let's make it easy by numbers:

For a wine that is bought 45€ per bottle from the importer:

45€ / 1.24=36.29€ is the price we got. Now 20€ is added on it:

36.29€+20€= 56.29€. Now the tax added on this number again:

56.29 + 56.29 x 0.24= 69.80€ is the price you will pay.

Crazy. Right? But why he does that? I did ask. What he said is that he is willing to change the wine culture and the idea of wine drinking in a restaurant by finding a method which will keep them survive but also make the customer to be able to have more wine without fear. True, most of us are anxious about prices in a restaurant when we are having a meeting with friends or going out with someone special. Also, wine is a culture, Finland must see this truth someday, people get drunk and lose their health shot after shot filled by heavy alcohol, but wine should not be considered as heavy alcohol, wine is a culture, is a liquid form of art, it is comfort food; it is meant to enjoy slowly, it is not something you can get drunk on if you really dont drink 2 liters of it alone in half an hour, which makes it never possible to enjoy!

So I think Paul did a very "aggressive decision" with this method and started to run it since more than a year. There are anyways only few really wine-driven restaurants in the town and if the restaurants, sommeliers and bloggers do not act, the wine culture will never improve.

May your glass be filled with fine wines. Greetings.

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