How to… create the perfect wine list

03 February 2012
How to… create the perfect wine list

Your wine list is an integral part of your customer's dining experience. A carefully chosen, well-presented and inviting wine list will add to the enjoyment of the occasion. It is also a way for you to increase your margins and make your venue more profitable.

Picture the scene; a group of friends have got together for a meal or a night out. They're laughing and having fun. They're then presented with a wine list. There's nothing they recognise on the list, no descriptors to help them decide, the prices all seem quite high and the member of staff they ask for assistance doesn't know the difference between a Chardonnay and a Shiraz. They have little choice - they choose the cheapest wine on the list, as there seems little point in spending more.

At a different venue, the same group of friends are given a stylishly presented wine list, with a friendly note from the owner. There is a wide range of wines from entry level upwards with good descriptions and suggestions of foods that might complement them. There are also a few more unusual wines and some at a much higher price point - but it is made clear what they are and why they are more expensive. The person serving comes over and helps the friends make an informed decision. They decide to try something new and spend a little more as it sounds interesting.

Your wine list is your sales brochure. Get it right and everyone will be happy.
Guy Adams is managing director at Heritage Wine


Understand your customers
Take a step back and put yourself in your customers' shoes. Getting the psychology right is so important - and not frightening your customers with very high prices and too much unfamiliarity. Think about your average customer's knowledge of wine, the questions they ask when ordering, and how much they currently spend on a bottle on average. Offering good quality wines at this price with familiar names such as Chardonnay or Rioja provides reassurance. A steady price progression to more expensive wines, each with an interesting descriptor, will give your customers reasons to trade up.

Ask for help
Work with an experienced wine supplier to develop your list: someone who understands not only about wine but also about your business and the importance of the bottom-line.

A suitable range
Ensure that there is something for everyone on the wine list. It needs to start at a keen price point, with a good offering of wines under the £20 mark so customers can explore different wine producing areas from around the world.

Get pricing right
Maintain healthy margins throughout your list, but consider cash margins for higher priced wines. There is no point in stocking very expensive wines that nobody buys.

Invest in quality
Even at the entry level don't skimp on quality. If the customer is getting an interesting, well-selected wine for their money at this level, they are more likely to explore further up the list.

Share your knowledge
If the wine list is clear, with good descriptions, it will help to sell the wines. But don't cram it with information. A few words about the wine - the grape variety, country of origin, dominant characteristics and food matching suggestions - will be quite sufficient. Think about your staff's level of knowledge too and ensure they know enough about the wine list to up-sell effectively. Highly trained staff can bring the wine list to life.

It's in the presentation
Make the wine list look appealing and add a personal note at the front to make it friendly and inviting. Keep it stylish and simple. Group the wines either by style or price, but not by country, so that it is easy for customers to explore.

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