The NoMad — Reserve White Wines by the Glass

The NoMad (my reviews here, here (at the rooftop), and here) made news recently with its list of “reserve wines by the glass.”  The NoMad uses a high-tech system called a Coravin, which lets you pour a glass of wine out of a bottle without removing the cork.  As a result, the restaurant (or you, if you want to shell out a few hundred bucks) can serve wine by the glass without exposing the wine remaining in the bottle to oxygen.  That means The NoMad’s list of “reserve” wines by the glass includes lots of bottles you wouldn’t otherwise find — generally, bottles that have aged 10-15 years or more, and that would costs hundreds of dollars if you bought them by the bottle.  

The Times article said that the by-the-glass prices “may seem astronomical,” but are good deals because (according to The NoMad’s wine director) one serving is about a “quarter bottle.”  So I did a bit of math to see where the values were.  The first three columns are straight from The NoMad’s wine list (reproduced here ).  The next column is the average price for that bottle of wine on www.wine-searcher.com.  The NoMad says one “serving” is about a quarter bottle, so I divided the wine-searcher price by four to get a price-per-serving at retail prices.   Finally, I calculated the NoMad-to-retail ratio:  the lower the ratio, the better the deal. 

Here’s an example.  When I was at The NoMad for brunch on my anniversary a few weeks ago, I had a glass of the Bonneau du Martray.  Online, a bottle retails for an average of $151.  So if I bought this at the average price and poured myself a quarter-bottle, it would cost me $38.  The NoMad’s price of $65 is 1.7 times (170%) the retail average.  This is in line with what the Wall Street Journal says is the typical markup on bottles of wine — two to three times wholesale (and retail is about 1.5x wholesale).  Interestingly, The NoMad sells this same wine by the bottle for $320, or about 2.1 times the retail average.  If one serving from the reserve list is truly a quarter-bottle, you’d be better off buying four quarter-bottles for $260 than one entire bottle for $320!

My calculations are below, and The NoMad’s wine list follows.  This list is just for white wines; I’ll do red wines tomorrow.

Have you ever had a wine by the glass (or bottle) that you thought was a good value?  What was it and where did you have it?

VARIETAL DESCRIPTION NOMAD PRICE PER GLASS WINE-SEARCHER AVERAGE “RETAIL” PRICE PER GLASS NOMAD-TO-RETAIL RATIO
RIESLING NIKOLAIHOF, VINOTHEK, WACHAU, AUSTRIA 1995 $60 $150 $38 1.6
TRIMBACH, CLOS STE. HUNE, ALSACE, FRANCE 2005 $100 $193 $48 2.1
DR. BÜRKLIN-WOLF, GAISBOHL, GC, PFALZ, GERMANY 1997 $40 $42 $11 3.8
CHENIN BLANC DOMAINE HUET, LE HAUT-LIEU, DEMI-SEC, VOUVRAY, FRANCE 1992 $40 $53 $13 3.0
NICOLAS JOLY, COULÉE DE SERRANT, SAVENNIÈRES, FRANCE 1999 $50 $81 $20 2.5
VIOGNIER NEYRET-GACHET, CHÂTEAU-GRILLET, FRANCE 1996 $110 $204 $51 2.2
SAUVIGNON BLANC DIDIER DAGUENEAU, SILEX, POUILLY-FUMÉ, FRANCE 2011 $60 $111 $28 2.2
MARSANNE JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, HERMITAGE, FRANCE 2010 $120 $475 $119 1.0
VIURA LOPEZ DE HEREDIA, VIÑA TONDONIA, GRAN RESERVA BLANCO, RIOJA, SPAIN 1991 $40 $82 $21 2.0
CHARDONNAY FRANÇOIS RAVENEAU, MONTÉE DE TONNERRE, 1ER CRU, CHABLIS, FRANCE 1996 $100 $253 $63 1.6
JEAN-MARC ROULOT, 1ER CRU, MEURSAULT, FRANCE 2010 $70 $163 $41 1.7
DOMAINE DES COMTES LAFON, CHARMES, 1ER CRU, MEURSAULT, FRANCE 1998 $110 $227 $57 1.9
BONNEAU DU MARTRAY, GRAND CRU, CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 1998 $65 $151 $38 1.7
SÉMILLON CHÂTEAU D’YQUEM, SAUTERNES, FRANCE 1999 $90 $304 $76 1.2

So what are the values?  The Marsanne comes out at just about retail — though it’s a red wine!  For some reason it’s listed on both the white and red reserve lists.  Purely in terms of ratio, the Yquem is a good deal, but I suspect also that you aren’t getting a “quarter bottle” of Sauternes, because dessert wines are served in smaller portions.  Excluding the dessert wine, there are a bunch in the 1.6 or 1.7 range.  As I mentioned, I had the Bonneau du Martray, a fantastic chard, which is right around 1.7x.  It was just a bit oaky — not so oaky that it overpowered — and smooth, without any rough edges.  A bit fruity on the palate, but generally a great example of the style.  Would I buy it at $150-ish a bottle?  Maybe, but I was glad to try it out at $65 for the glass. And with other options in that range, you aren’t going to get gouged trying a wine. (The best deal I found is on the red wine side of the list. Stay tuned; I’ll cover reds tomorrow.)

The NoMad’s list of reserve wines by the glass is below. (Return to the body of the post.)

NoMad’s Reserve Wines by the Glass

What are your thoughts?