For some diners, it’s hard to commit to a bottle of wine. “It’s because you’re pre-ordering five servings at one time,” says Collin Moody, general manager at Edgewater wine bar Income Tax. But that also means you’ll miss out on an establishment’s more unique offerings.
To prevent this injustice, Income Tax now has an off-menu program dubbed Drink Your Share, based off bottle sharing concepts at other like-minded spots. The gist: diners can pop open any bottle (up to $100) they want, drink half, and leave the rest for others to order by the glass.
The open bottles—sometimes reaching two dozen on a given night—are scrawled on wine fridges behind the bar with marks denoting how many glasses are left.
“We really wanted to promote the idea of connection and shared responsibility among guests, and this accentuates that,” Moody says.
The markup on the half-bottle program is deliberately low (55 percent, meaning half of a $43 bottle costs $24 and $12 by the glass) in an effort to move these bottles, which all showcase small producers from agriculture-focused grower-vintners. Owner Nelson Fitch previously worked at neighboring boutique liquor store Independent Spirits and Moody at boutique wine shops Red & White and Perman Wines, which helped them establish partnerships with such respected importers and distributors as Selection Massale, Robert Houde Wines, Cream Wine Co. and Maverick Wine Co. as they formulated the list.
“We love our wines, but we also want to sell them,” Moody says. “We [want to] represent those small farmers well, then move onto the next thing.”
There is and always will be a standard by-the-glass list at Income Tax, but Moody likes that this program elicits a different kind of conversation about wine—and more adventurous drinking habits.
How about a cloudy, funky white wine made by nuns that pairs beautifully with chef Ryan Henderson’s take on the 1920s salade beaucaire with root veggies and La Quercia ham? Or a muscadet (not to be confused with cloyingly sweet muscat!) from Nantes, France, that’s creamy with an oyster shell-esque minerality, meeting its unlikely match in Henderson’s classic coq au vin? Or a super-aromatic Barolo that doesn’t need to be aged before you drink it, alongside its perfect mate of carrot agnolotti with nebbiolo and veal sweetbreads?
Bottle sharing isn’t a new idea, but it’s also not a formal policy at most places. Moody was inspired by spots like easygoing Houston wine bar Camerata and Chicago’s own Korean-American Parachute in Avondale, which have been known to “pop anything on the list for a couple of glasses.”
“Whenever I go to Parachute, I always tell (sommelier Matty Colston) ‘we’re in your hands; bring us whatever you want,’” he says. “He always has something exciting open that might be off list that he personally wanted to have a glass of that night. It’s extremely informal, but we loved this idea of coming in, sitting at the bar, and being like, what’s open? What’s new?”
To the surprise of the Income Tax team—and especially their distributors, Moody says—they’re blowing through the bottle list with almost no waste. The few remaining ounces in a bottle most often go to staff training, which eases the burden of Fitch and Moody, who share beverage-buying duties.
The pair is glad to spark curiosity among their customers who walk in the doors with a simple question: “What’s open?”