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Creating a basic wine list

26 April 2005
Creating a basic wine list

Whether you've got eight wines on your wine list or 800, your wine list is a hugely important part of your business, not to mention the overall image of your establishment.

A wine list thrown together by someone who doesn't know what they are doing stands out a mile. With competition as stiff as ever, this is no time to be complacent.

Whatever style of list you go for, whether it's lively and informative; a flashy, leather-bound tome, or a single sheet of card, it should show the care and attention to detail that you've put into every other aspect of your business.

First, the information that you include should be relevant and up-to-the-minute, with correct details of the wine's provenance and vintage. But most importantly, the wine list needs to be structured and balanced.

Suppliers

After finding your suppliers it is important that when choosing the wines there is something for everyone.

Look for wines that are made well, not just those that you prefer, and make notes jotting down your reactions, spacing out the tastings if you feel there are too many wines to get through in one session.

Remember to take into account the style of food that you are offering. Up-front kind of foods, such as pizza, pasta, stews and roasts, want up-front kind of wines.

If fish or fine dining is your thing, you'll require wines of subtlety and elegance. The more complex and varied the menu, the more complex and varied the wine list needs to be.

Mark ups

Having worked out what kind of mark-up you're going for you need to work out how many wines to offer. Think small to start with, including wines that you particularly like that team up well with the food that you're offering.

Price them in line with the rest of the menu because there's no point in splashing out on big names with big price tags if you haven't got the customers to buy them.

With a short list, balance grape varieties, styles, countries of origin and prices to give the broadest appeal. Throw in a handful of bottles of something classy or esoteric - something to excite the customer and allow them to experiment a bit, and trade-up: an Albariño from Galicia, perhaps, or a cult Pinot Noir wine from New Zealand. Good suppliers should be able to let you have the odd bottle of something special to add extra interest to your list.

How to organise your list

If you do go down the tasting note route, keep them brief, accurate and to the point, and avoid flowery prose at all costs.

Finally, double and triple check for spelling mistakes - nothing gives away a sloppy list more than basic words spelt incorrectly.

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