Having a quick glance at a wine list will give you a good idea of what to expect from any food menu. Atleast this is something I can't help but do before deciding to dine in a never been before eatery. I asked a Sommelier friend of mine to talk me through what goes into making a great wine list.
She said what sets most wine lists apart is great focus and integrity to the food menu. Wine best enjoyed with food needs to consider their counterpart. The list has to be customer friendly and easy to navigate. Guests won't enjoy the experience if they are left unaided deciding on a wine choice while the accompanying diners are trying to engage and enjoy each others time. One trend is to index the wines by country, style and food match. Educating the guest on a range but also helping with decision making.
Not every diner is the same, that's why a good wine list must cater for price point and style. A good wine director will take the time to understand their guests and cater for their needs by selecting appropriate wines. Lower alcohol, wines from eccentric countries like Hungary, seasonality and multiple vintage wines all play a part. You don't want to be stuck with the same old single-supplier menu so look out for this.
Understanding the process and story behind a wine is important. One great story is the Raveneau Chablis a family vineyard in Burgundy, France. Founded in 1948, they produce 3,000 cases annually. The holdings are mostly made from the outstanding grand cru and premier gru fruit. The vinification process hasn't changed and has become a family tradition. Grapes are harvested by hand. Then pressed gently by pneumatic press. Only indigenous yeasts are used. Juice is left to settle, and then racked off its lees into cuve to ferment. Alcoholic fermentation takes two weeks, follow by a malolactic fermentation in barrel. Wines are aged for 18 months in older oak barrel and feuillette (most of which comes from barrel-maker Chassin), of which a very small percentage is new.
“Chablis at its best is a magnificent wine, and is quite unique. The color should be a full, in the sense of quite viscous, greeny-gold. The aromas should combine steeliness and richness, gun flint, grilled nuts and crisp toast. The flavour should be long, individual, and complex. Above all, the wine should be totally dry, but without greenness. The aftertaste must be rich rather than mean, ample rather than hard, generous rather than soulless. Chablis is an understated wine, so it should be subtle rather than obvious, reserved rather than too obviously charming”.
Finally, a wine list must evolve as with the food menu. Classics are important but compelling guests with a new experience, a new style from a new region will always delight time and time again.