What makes a good wine list in a restaurant? Various magazines and others have an annual prize for ”best wine list”. The most (in-)famous is no doubt the one from Wine Spectator who a year or two ago gave a prize to a restaurant in Italy that did not exist… (They were tricked by a scam devised by an Italian journalist.) But for us, personally, what makes for a good wine list? It is mostly a question of inspiration, intelligence and the joys of discovery. It is not a purpose in itself (or even necessarily positive) that the wine list is long. We’ve seen many long wine lists with, for example, an impressive number of different Burgundies, but all from the same depressing négociant house.
No, a wine list is excellent if you can find something interesting and exciting in each category, wines that match the food on the menu. It’s nice if the wines are a bit unusual and not necessarily the most well known, so that you have a chance to discover something new. It’s a big minus if the list only has Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne (in some markets this “boring wine selection” is replaced by e.g. southern Italy, South Africa and Australia). We’d much rather see a handful of inspired choices than a long list of “safe” names.
Having a selection of wines by the glass is of course also important. But that does not have to be very long either. It’s OK with a few inspired wines. What we definitely don’t like is when the wines by the glass are served in aquarium-sized glasses in portions of, say, a quarter of a litre. Too many restaurants / wine bars serve wines by the glass in so big portions that you’d hesitate to order a second glass. It is much better, we think, with reasonable glass sizes and it’s a big added plus if you can order small “tasting portions” of e.g. 8 cl, so that you can order several different wines to compare.
And then there are some basic “hygiene” aspects of the wine list: It must show who the producer is. A wine list that only says “Bourgogne Saint Véran” is really useless, just as meaningless as if it only said “Shiraz from Australia”. This is really a sore point on many wine lists! The vintage must also be indicated of course. And it should correspond to what is on the bottle… If, in addition, the wine list has a short description of the wine style and some words about the producer and about the wine region, then it is a very good sign! Those simple things will surely help the restaurant to sell more wines and give the customer a much better wine experience!
Britt & Per
PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them !
This post is also available in: Swedish