Being the largest or most expensive is quite easy really, all this requires is a lot of financing, a lot of space and a little knowledge. For me, a great wine list should reflect the establishment, either in location, style, cuisine or personality. The presentation of the list is vitally important, as this is how the consumer will make his selection, and be guided by the wine team. Presenting the list by style is very confusing for many; how many guests really know the difference between plump and fruity/rich and unctuous? Conversely, listing in regional order in the traditional fashion leaves the feeling of a lack of creativity? Also, many establishments will offer ‘fine wines’ as a separate selection, which just means the most expensive. I prefer to be a little more creative; presenting in grape varietal, production methods, sub-regions, wine makers or in alphabetical order. Of course, any of these ways can also be confusing, but the emphasis should be to establish a relationship between the interested amateur and the wine professional.
A great wine list need not be enormous, as little as one hundred wines will give a good coverage of most styles, prices and colours. Many sommeliers will buy what is available from their chosen supplier, rather than choose the wines they want. Few, if any, wine merchants will be able to offer the quality from every region you need, so go to the experts in their country of choice. Having a few more suppliers may mean more paperwork but will ultimately give you the selection you require.
One thing, more than anything else that annoys me in a restaurant is overpriced wines, especially the top end. All that happens is that they sit unsold; window dressing is for mannequins not wine lists. Collectors who will want to drink these wines will know their value, and they will probably have a cellar full of them at home. Offering sensible prices will encourage wine lovers to frequent and also purchase another bottle.
The world is full of wines from recognised producers and also unknown producers. Be inventive and use the wine list as an opportunity to introduces new producers and regions to your guests. Balanced the established classics with inventive and fashionable wines. Be unique and a place where wine lovers will frequent because of your service, prices, passion and selection.
My Wine Philosophy
I have always believed that a guest should be given a ‘unique’ experience in a fine restaurant, and it is this unique quality which undermines every decision when selecting, presenting and serving wines and beverage. The following is my interpretation of the way I feel about a wine list:
To show the essential qualities of each wine is, not only to present the wine list in an interesting format, but also to serve each wine in a way that best identifies the wines personal attributes. It is amazing how any wine can change its personality if served at an incorrect temperature, or in the wrong shaped glass.
The best place to start is with a determined philosophy in mind: a philosophy that undermines every aspect, from selection through to presentation, and finally serving the wines in the correct manner. My philosophy is a simple one: I am a passionate believer in the theory that ‘Great Wines are made in the Vineyard.’
I fiercely believe in the notion of ‘terroir’ and winemakers who understand and respect their ‘sense of place’. Those who strive to use sustainable viticultural methods, rather than applying unnecessary pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Every vineyard has its own expression, or terroir, regardless of its size or location, but it is the dedicated understanding of the winemaker to reveal these qualities. The greatest wines are made by inspired artists who work hand-in-hand with the vineyard site to harness the natural expression of the grapes grown there.
Every vineyard has its own expression, or terroir, regardless of its size or location