Respect Your Wine List to Respect your Customer

I read a wine description last week that had been written for a pub/restaurant. It was ridiculously vague. The list was a short one and of its seven white wines the first three were all from Chile. I have nothing against Chile and I can’t honestly see anything wrong with a list comprised of nothing but Chilean wines! If the wines are well made, good value for money and distinctly different to one another, both in style and substance, then that list would be tremendously interesting.

The list in question, however, did little more than line the wines up and give ‘name, rank and serial number’. Where’s the difference? How is anyone expected to take wine seriously if the trade selling it doesn’t do so in the first instance?

I see a lot of lists. Regardless of their length, or the quality and types of wine being sold through them, they often let themselves down. When they work well they add value to a meal, a restaurant and ultimately to the food and wine experience.

Nerdy Lists: a Batchelor’s Degree in reading bullshit allows for a strict interpretation of the descriptions used.


Poets List: Everything and anything is thrown at the wine. In this case originality would appear to expect a reward.

Technical List: Do we really need to know what yeast was actually used in the ferment? Do we really need to know what the soil structure is like in the Coonawarra at this time of the year?

Rubbish List: Big companies are prone to ‘cut and paste’ techniques where the last person to be employed at the office is told to stitch a list together from a file of previously written descriptions. The results are often hilarious, embarrassing and completely inaccurate such as when a white wine description ends up beside a red wine!

Useful List: Accuracy and legibility help this to work. Short, snappy with some opinion such as food pairing and/or style of wine.

Food is so well described

Helpful List: Give reasons as to why the wine was chosen in the first place! These might be personal, amusing or whimsical but they add context and legitimacy to the choice of wine in the first place and on to the customer as a consequence.

Best List? Has a little Nerd, a dollop of Helpful, a liberal sprinkling of Useful, an occasional Technical and a very careful twist of the Poet otherwise the whole thing will fall flat and end up being Rubbish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWines are genuinely different!
   Wine writing is required to write wine lists Whoever said it was supposed to be easy or otherwise? The results of a fabulous list may look like they have been thrown together with little thought or analysis. In essence, however, that is what makes them great.

My advice to the list above? Drop the word Chile and you at least drop back to three wines that begin to display differences. Difference and a distinct complexity of what constitutes wine is what we are putting into our mouths. They are also what makes wine great and interesting in the first place. If we don’t make it interesting and accurate in how we set out our stand then we may as well be selling bananas described as jewellery and listed as perfumes.

Wine and its customer deserves a lot more respect than they often receive on wine lists.