The Wine Factor.
Emmanuel Gardinier
Tuesday, 10th May 2005
10 tips to create an attractive wine list. For the last 15 years the wine culture has been constantly growing, local producers have been hard at work improving the quality, and the public has responded.

Should you decide to change or create a new wine list, here are some tips on how to improve your offering:

  • The wine list should reflect your concept.This is pure common sense, but as I've seen too often, you should offer the wines that match your cooking style; no sense in featuring a Chateaux Latour or Opus One if you're offering an all you can eat buffet. Involve the chef into the selection process; you might be surprised in the pairings he will think of.
  • VarietyYour wine list should be eclectic, and should feature a blend of classical products as well as New World wine. If you are located in a wine area, of course most of your wines should be local, with a selection from other places. Have a good balance between reds and whites, and try to find small wineries you can feature.
  • Price rangeThe wine selection should offer a wide range of prices. Check how much the patrons are spending on food, then, have around 60% of your prices below that point. For example, if the average spent on food per person is $50, 60% of your wines should have a price below that point. Your guests can count, so be logical on the math and you won't end up with a half-bottle costing two thirds of the regular bottle. If you have those very expensive bottles, I suggest lowering your ratios, and making a lower margin on them unless you just want to keep them collecting dust. I was able to sell an incredible amount of bottles in the four digit range just because they where reasonably priced and the people who could afford those, knew perfectly well how much they cost at retail or at auction.
  • Check your salesThey will show you your guest's tendencies and you will be able to orient your wine selection according to their actual preferences.
  • Wines by the glass.Patrons are more and more interested in trying new wines and do not want necessarily to buy whole bottles. Have a good selection of wines by the glass with a nice price range. Be creative, pair them to your menu, and offer a special tasting formula. Make it interesting and fun!
  • Half BottlesThe overall tendency is to drink less (nobody likes a DUI), so don't overlook half bottles; they can be a precious ally in your selection. Have a special half bottle section, you will see that it's a growing trend, and they are perfect for couples or singles!
  • Make your list simpleWhether it's organized by regions, grape, or style, the wine list should be clear, well spaced, and in an easy to read font (especially for those of us who need glasses). It is most helpful if you can show some information on the taste and suggested food pairings.
  • Involve the staff.Not only should the staff be trained on your wine list, but you should also involve them in the selection.Set-up regular tastings with your sommelier, waiters and cooks. You will be surprised by the interest and motivation that comes from this initiative. New ideas will emerge and your staff will be able to communicate better with the guests.
  • Stop your sommelier from being a wine snob.The sommelier should be helpful, not condescending. He should use simple terms when describing the wine, and always suggest moderately priced wines unless the guest shows an interest in the more expensive ones. He should be a guide, not a judge, (so what if a guest chooses to drink a heavy red wine with that Dover sole)?
  • Do not overstock.The last property I managed had 70,000 bottles in stock when I arrived; it sure was nice to boast about it, but the financial burden can be overwhelming. On paper it looks nice to buy the wine young and age it yourself, but the market fluctuates a lot, so you can be in for a financial rollercoaster. The wine market is so competitive that you are now able to quite easily find even the rarest bottles at an interesting price.


    About the author:
    Emmanuel Gardinier is an award-winning hotelier; he has spent the last 20 years managing properties in over 12 countries.

    He is committed to provide the highest standard of services to his guests. He has specialized in upgrading properties, as well as streamlining operations and staff training. He has also been an active consultant and as given lectures and classes in many world-renowned hotel schools. Now settled in the USA, he is offering comprehensive on site work and is available to help owners and managers achieve their goals regardless of the size or style of property.

    Emmanuel Gardinier
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