Creating an Exceptional Wine List: What Wines Should You Include?

No matter how they are classified, you can be sure that the wines will be clearly identified. Most wine lists include the producer, the region, the type of grape, the year and, of course, the price of the wine. Some even offer a brief description or, sometimes, a suggestion for pairing. The wine list must be structured in a logical order that reflects the format of the meal.

You should start with sparkling wines, followed by white, rosé, red and dessert wines. In each category, wines must be listed according to their origin. How you structure the list depends, of course, on the size of the selection. If a yacht has fewer than ten references for red and white wines, simply list them in the categories “white wine” and “red wine”.For a medium-sized selection, it is convenient to list the wines in their different countries.

For wider ranges, wines should be organized by country and region. If you're most concerned about the profit margin of wines, you might want to consider wines from lesser-known regions, made from lesser-known grapes, or lesser-known vintages. Another thing to know before choosing the wine list is to at least have a general idea of how much wine you'll need and how much you're willing to spend. One of the favorite techniques, especially if you're scared of mispronouncing words or if you don't want to say out loud your wine budget, is to simply write down the wine list while the sommelier or waiter is watching you. In turn, that section on California wines could be followed by a section dedicated to Oregon wines, followed by a section on wines from Washington state.

And recognizing all this data is helping sommeliers to transform a simply “good” wine list into a “really excellent” wine list. On the contrary, this job usually falls to someone like the chief butler or the chief stewardess, who will have many other functions and from whom it would not be fair to expect the in-depth knowledge of wine that you would expect from a sommelier or other wine professional. Often, several classification methods are combined to create more specific categories in a wine list (“French reds”, “whites of the new world”, “Australian shiraz”), especially if the wine list is extensive. Larger wine lists tend to use even greater classification, for example, by grape type (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), location (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti, California) or even wine styles (“crisp whites”, striking reds). For example, you can serve a white wine as a starter and then put two glasses of white wine on the table for each diner. Consider wines from regions such as Alsace in France or from countries such as Spain or South Africa, or consider varieties such as Zinfandel or Chenin Blanc and sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Cava. You can use the general rule that you should always offer at least one wine at an affordable price in each category, as well as a high-priced or premium wine for special celebratory occasions.

Instead, I will give guidelines on how to create a good, balanced and wide selection of wines that has something for every palate and, most importantly, that allows for a good pairing between food and wine. Therefore, a restaurant could list all California wines in one place and then subdivide them into regions such as Napa Valley, Sonoma, and the Central Coast. Ordering wine by the glass is synonymous with comfort, fun and learning; professionals also order wine by the glass.

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