The cost of wine – restaurants vs vineyards

Moneybags journalist Jessica Wood investigates the cost of wine at ten restaurants in Cape Town, and the price of those same wines if bought online or direct from the vineyard to evaluate just how much extra we, as the consumer, are paying to enjoy our favourite tipple when we go out to eat.

Going out for a meal and having a good glass of wine to accompany it is a luxury. But are you really getting your money’s worth when you purchase a bottle, or glass of wine at a restaurant?

Recent reports have claimed that wine farms and producers are struggling financially and are therefore not going to be planting new vines. Meanwhile restaurants are placing large mark-ups on the wine that they receive from the producers. So what should you do this Valentine’s Day to save money if your date insists on going out to dinner and ordering wine?

The cost of wine

A selection of different types of restaurants (picked at random) and ten different makes or types of wine (also picked at random) were selected. They ranged from fine dining restaurants to more family friendly establishments. A variety of wines were chosen, including various sauvignon blancs, merlots, chardonnays, from various wine farms. These are the results (click on table to enlarge):

cost of wine table

*The price under the column is per bottle, however, when you order wine on the website you are required to purchase a minimum of either six or 12 bottles, depending on the wine.(All prices accurate on date of publication 22 February 2015. Restaurant prices gathered from, the restaurants and their websites)

**On you can select the number of bottles that you want to order.

Analysing the results

(Click on graph to enlarge)

cost of wine graph

From the results it is obvious that wine costs more at a restaurant than if a person were to buy it online or directly from the producer or vineyard. In most cases it would also be cheaper to take you own bottle of wine that you bought from the vineyard to the restaurant and pay the corkage fee than it is to buy the exact same bottle of wine at the restaurant.

Most of the restaurants that were analysed for this article placed a mark-up of about 50% or more on the bottle of wine. From the graph above it is clear that buying wine direct from the producer is a more cost effective way to go.

However, it is important to remember that the cost of the wine is also dependent on the vintage, as well as the vineyard or type of wine, as wines that are considered to be rarer or of a finer vintage may cost more.

Restaurants charge a corkage fee per bottle opened, but even if you were to open several bottles of wine during the course of the meal, in the end it would still be cheaper to take your own.

So what’s the answer? If you intend on wining and dining your loved one this Valentine’s Day but have to adhere to a strict budget, consider taking your own wine and paying the corkage. Chances are it will be cheaper than buying it from the restaurant.

Wine buying tips

  • Buy the wine directly from the producer. If you are unable to go to the vineyard, visit the winery’s website. Some of them offer the option to purchase their wines online, or provide a list of their stockists.
  • If getting wine from the vineyard isn’t a possibility for you, try online stores that specialise in selling wine and other alcoholic beverages. They may cost more than if you were to buy it from the producer, but they will still generally be cheaper than a restaurant.
  • Look at your local bottle stores as well. You can pick up good deals, when there are specials, and some of the wines cost the same or similar to that of the vineyard. For example, the Groote Post Merlot is R99 from the vineyard, and R99.95 from Makro (Price correct as of 12 February 2015).
  • If you have a favourite wine and you are planning on buying a bottle, consider buying a case instead. This will save you having to visit vineyard too often. Shop around for the best deal. It is well known that restaurants charge a mark-up on their wines and other beverages, with each restaurant charging something different for the exact same product.