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The City’s Most Frustrating Wine List

3 September 2011

Some restaurants and bars are not especially interested in putting together a thoughtful wine selection, and I don’t have a problem with that. In certain establishments, wine won’t be a big seller, no matter how enticing the list may be.

Much more annoying are the restaurants that do make an effort to offer a range of different wines, but render them virtually inaccessible because of a poor menu. Exhibit A:

I like the two different sizes of glasses are available, allowing one to create a customized flight of wine. But what will actually be in that flight remains a mystery, unless the customer happens to know the specific winery names.

I write a wine blog, and I know two, maybe three of these wines by name. How can I order something unusual if I don’t even know what country (let alone region) most of these wines are from? That Ferrari Carano Chardonnay could be from some obscure, exciting region in Italy, or it could be some run-of-the-mill Napa “Chard.” The 14 Hands Merlot could be from California, Australia, Chile, Argentina… It’s actually from Washington, which makes it a much more interesting choice in my book, but how could I possibly know that from this list?

Restaurants: If you take the time to assemble a fine selection of wines, don’t shoot yourself in the foot with an opaque wine list. There’s more to wine than just the varietal. The winery name, varietal and place of origin are all necessary pieces of information for the wine consumer. I don’t really need the vintage, unless it’s unusually old, and heck, I barely even need the winery name.

Poorly written menus affect the bottom line. Because when faced with a list like this — and I don’t think I’m alone — I just order a beer.

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