Laura Maniec opened Corkbuzz just south of Union Square three years ago, following up this past year with a second venue in the Chelsea Market. In May of 2013, she started her Champagne Campaign (see below). Her list of ten top-selling wines this year included six Champagnes.
How is it that six of your ten best-selling wines are Champagnes?
That’s because of the Champagne Campaign. We started that two years ago—it will be two years in May. It’s half off all bottles of Champagne after 10pm every night and at Sunday brunch. That’s the reason those bottles are such big sellers. Those are the discounted prices [e.g., Moncuit Blanc de Blancs and Roederer Brut Premier for $55]; that’s what shows up in our POS. People come in to drink Champagne at 11 at night. They want a good bottle and to take advantage of our deal. So it starts to become this huge volume, when you’re buying a case of wine a week that you never would have had to buy. I was shocked when I looked at those numbers—it’s so great that it’s working.
I couldn’t do it with all my wines all night, every night. We have much higher expenses than retail. But you can make money on it—or you’re not losing money. It’s like an airline mentality—you fill those seats. It helps with the average check at that time of night, but more importantly it helps move wines we really believe in. We’re not making our full markup, but it’s not a charity.
What’s really driving the large volume is after 10 pm or brunch. Let’s say a group of five would never drink three bottles of Champagne. They just don’t. But now they might say, “Well, let’s try these three wines side by side.”
And a malbec is your top-selling wine…
Malbec was the first bottle of wine we sold at Corkbuzz Union Square, the first ticket we wrote. We can’t keep a $45 malbec on the shelf. The brand doesn’t matter. It’s brand malbec. If you’re not eating and you’ve just come in for a bottle of red wine—people will just be like, “Lets drink malbec because it’s big and it’s got soft tannins.” For us, it’s always been like that.
You mentioned a Colheita Port as your top-selling dessert wine: Who orders that?
We pride ourselves on offering a complete soup-to-nuts experience, so we do highlight fortified wines. But we don’t have a dessert cart or a push for them. At the moment, the Colheita [Niepoort 2005] goes well with two desserts: bomboloni with pistachio ice cream and a light cherry compote—you can dip your donuts in the cherries and it goes so well with the Port—or warm chocolate chip cookies with hazelnut ice cream.
We sell a lot of Madeira as well. The staff loves Madeira—we have a 1988 D’Oliveira Reserve Terrantez that’s $40 a glass. Usually people order that just to sip on it. We did a Madeira master class and the staff all attended; they got really excited about the wine and they sell a lot of it.