IMBIBE: The Art of the Wine List

By on March 23, 2016

What would you serve at your restaurant?

160323Imbibe_origJACKSON HOLE, WY – Recently, a Cape Cod-based friend and colleague of mine asked for my input in creating a wine list and inventory for a new restaurant. Naturally, my hedonistic instinct was to suggest loading the list up with first-growth Bordeaux, the best Burgundies, costly vintage Champagne and such. But that road is one less-travelled for the majority of restaurateurs. They, after all, must deal with reality, not fantasy. And most have limited budgets, limited storage facilities and aren’t going to sell very many $8,000 bottles of Petrus 1982.

Many folks, including me, enjoy beginning dinner with a glass of bubbly. So I recommend having at least two or three options available for customers. In my restaurant, I’d offer an interesting domestic sparkling wine such as Roederer Estate Brut, as North Fork does, or maybe Gruet Brut, from New Mexico. I’d also have a non-vintage French Champagne on the menu, like Moët Impérial.

Even on the tiniest of wine lists, you must include the four most common white wine varietals: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris. I’d put Chardonnay on my restaurant’s list, but not a lot of it and not big, bombastic, oaky Chards. Chardonnay is overrated as a food wine. So, put a domestic, oaky Chardonnay on the list for those who enjoy it, but offer some unoaked Chardonnays, as well. A mixture of Chards from the United States, France, Australia and Chile would be nice. Include a minimum of one dry and one off-dry Riesling, a domestic Sauvignon Blanc and one from New Zealand, and a mix of Italian Pinot Grigio and Alsatian Pinot Gris, with perhaps a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris for good measure. If you can branch out and include lesser-known whites such as Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer and white blends like
Conundrum, that would be even better.

I can’t even imagine a restaurant in France—no matter the size—not offering a good dry Rosé. The French drink it by the bucket. Well, kudos again to North Fork for including Domaine Serene “R” Rosé from the Willamette Valley on its list. I’d recommend also including a solid Rosé from Provençe such as Caves D’Esclans Whispering Angel.

As with the white wines, you’ll want to offer guests the most in-demand reds. Those are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah and (in this country) Zinfandel. I’d give customers a choice of a domestic Cabernet and a French Bordeaux, along with an Oregon or California Pinot Noir and one from Burgundy. Ditto Merlot from both the United States and France. Then, I’d turn to Australia for Shiraz and to France for Syrah. If you’ve got room, mix in an Argentine Malbec, Sangiovese and Chianti from Italy, Spanish Tempranillo and such.

Now, which wines would be essential for your list?PJH


About Ted Scheffler

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