Why the list should always come first

Related tags Wine list Wine

How you choose and order your wine list speaks volumes about your establishment. I can tell the lists "ordered" from the wine merchant a mile off....

How you choose and order your wine list speaks volumes about your establishment. I can tell the lists "ordered" from the wine merchant a mile off. It's a particular bore when one merchant dominates an area ­ you see the same lists, with the same wines, and even the same blurb, from pub to hotel to restaurant ­ which is not exactly exciting for the customer, now is it?

In this increasingly wine-savvy world where the customer is in danger of knowing more about the subject than the seller, it's time to wise up with your wine list.

Even if you are limited to just the one supplier (more is best, though I'm sure you knew that), you can still be creative. Take a leaf out of Tim Hanni's book ­ go progressive.

The American Master of Wine first made waves with his radical approach to food and wine matching back in the mid-nineties while working with Napa wine giant Beringer, basically blowing received wisdom out of the water.

Now he has developed a wine-training programme ­ available over the internet ­ which is suitable for both catering student and professional caterer alike.

Called Wine Quest, it boasts that it can give staff the basics in just 15 minutes, and introduces students to his progressive wine list.

"If a customer asks what they recommend with a particular dish, they can reply, "our food is delicious with any wine you would enjoy," says Hanni. Okay, so there's a bit more to it than that, but that's the gist, anyway.

His progressive wine list is a beauty. It simply places milder flavours at the top and stronger flavours at the bottom of the list ­ which is great for short lists (get your merchant to help if you're unsure which wines should go where).

Wine Quest is already being used to train staff from Mondavi to Marriott, teaching students how to design and manage wine programmes and create balanced wine lists that appeal to a wide range of diners' tastes, budgets and occasions. For more info, visit www.winequest.com.

Or you could always do a Stephen Barrett. The Plymouth-based restaurateur has come up with a novel way of presenting his wine list at his new place, Bistro One, which is going down well.

He lists just four wines from one producer, with a mixed bag of bin-ends on a separate list for the wine anoraks (made up of whatever he can afford and whatever takes his fancy)."It's certainly got them talking," says Barrett, who opened the bistro back in June.

Now, being a wine writer, and something of a local wine celebrity (his booming baritone is a regular on radio), Barrett has chalked up a certain amount of trust, so customers know that, while the list is short, it'll be good (though anyone could do this with a half decent palate and a trustworthy supplier). And importantly, he changes the producer every month to keep interest up.

And here's the best bit ­ because he's buying in 10-case lots, he gets a good deal from his supplier, which he passes on to the customer, selling a 175ml glass for around £2.80, and a bottle for £12, which, of course, never runs out.

He chooses wines from all over the vinous globe ­ the only criteria being a pedigree producer with a decent line-up of varieties (four is the norm), which Barrett boosts with a decent bubbly ­ at the moment it's the commendable Beaumont de Crayeres NV, which he sells for £5 a glass and £28 a bottle. Another idea for you, anyway.

Related topics Wine

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more