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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
22 Mar 2004

I'm sure most visitors to this site are sufficiently interested in wine and knowledgeable about wine prices to have been thoroughly frustrated by the pricing on most restaurant wine lists. One establishment in Britain has a particularly enticing wine selection PLUS a particularly fair wine pricing policy. I thought I'd reproduce below the statement at the beginning of the wine list at Gidleigh Park, the Michelin starred hotel-restaurant at the end of a long lane between Chagford and Dartmoor in Devon, in the hope that it might inspire other restaurateurs with its combination of generosity to customers and sound business sense. The upshot is that Gidleigh Park encourages its customers to drink as well as they eat, but the wine list is still run at a profit.

Enjoy Gidleigh's mouth-watering wine list and prices at

Gidleigh Park - the proprietor's prejudices

March 2003 was our 25th anniversary at Gidleigh Park. We have always aimed to have one of the best restaurant wine lists in Britain, but it has grown dramatically since 1978. A few years ago when the list comprised about 450 wines, I concluded there was too much capital tied up in wine, and decided to reduce the selection to maybe 300 wines. This policy has resulted in our now offering more than 650 wines, 40 of them in more than one bottle size! Our restaurant manager Hamilton Stamp can give you sound advice if you tell him first, the type of wine that you like, and second, the amount that you want to spend.

Wine is one of my great enthusiasms, but this is a business and we must make a profit. It's no good saying that you can buy that wine at Oddbins for £x. First, you probably couldn't buy the mature good stuff that we have here and second you aren't paying interest on a cellar of 16,000 bottles valued at over £400,000 excluding VAT. Note that all of the prices on this list include 17.5 per cent VAT to the Government, and service.

The more expensive the wine, the lower our markup. We make a minimum profit of £12 on any bottle served, and a maximum profit of £40. A wine which costs us £20 ex VAT (about the average of our stock) is on the list at £50 inc service and VAT, a profit to us of 53 per cent. I would like to see more of the restaurants in which we eat do this. Most restaurants aim for a 66 per cent gross profit margin, which would lead to a wine costing £20 being listed for £70.50, and if service is added at 12 per cent that makes it £79.

What to drink now? I keep trying without much success to interest clients in buying a half bottle of sherry as an apéritif, or if they are staying two nights a bottle of a German Auslese or Spätlese wine. Most wine producing areas around the world had a great run of vintages in the 1990s, but prices increased substantially. Farr Vintners have been flogging great quantities of 1997 Clarets at considerably less than their en primeur prices. We have bought several of these; they are not great wines, but quite good and good value.

Finally, have a look at South African whites and reds. There has been a very considerable increase in quality of these wines in the last fifteen years, and they are good value because the Rand is relatively weak against

Paul Henderson, January 2004