Restaurants are charging exorbitant mark-ups on Champagne, with wine experts branding prices "an insult to the customer".
Judges at the year's Trophée Gosset Celebris competition were shocked by the level of mark-ups on Champagne and the variety of prices charged for the same bottles.
"There is a huge and worrying discrepancy in the margins people are charging on Champagne - particularly on brands such as Cristal and Dom P‚rignon," said Tim Atkin, the Observer wine critic and Master of Wine. "There's no rhyme or reason to it, some people are just charging whatever they can get away with."
Fellow judge and wine writer Fiona Sims agreed. "Mark-ups are still a scourge on the industry. A fair proportion of the lists we looked at exercised unfairly high mark-ups and were marked down in the competition as a result - even if they were five-star hotels."
The top prize at this year's competition went to London's Putney Bridge restaurant, which judges voted for unanimously. The restaurant charges £130 for a bottle of 1996 Dom Pérignon, but judges noted that the bottle was priced at £220 elsewhere. "Anything over £150 for this bottle is an insult to customers," Atkin said.
Second prize went to the Harrow at Little Bedwyn, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, and third prize to the Bell at Skenfrith near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 7 October 2004