- First Principle: Readability PLEASE! No patron should need to pull out reading glasses to see what’s on the list… kind of destroys the romance, I think. So if you can print your wine list in 11-pt type or above, you’ll be ‘way ahead of the competition. There really should be no compromise on this principle. Use more pages. Or feature fewer wines.
- Intrigue the customer. I really enjoyed the list at Six Peaks Grille, the fine dining restaurant at the Resort at Squaw Valley. Rose Chehade is in charge of the wine selection there. She divided the list by the usual categories – white wines, red wines, and then added a separate category for small formats and large formats of each. Who could resist looking at Ms Chehade’s selections called Particularly Diverse Whites, and Diverse and Extraordinary Reds? Ka-ching!
- Educate the customer. It’s nice to help your patrons understand the AVA or region that the wine is from, but that information can take up a lot of space on a wine list, threatening readability. One clever way around this conflict is the solution used by Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg, CA. They’ve abbreviated those terroir designators and put the index to abbreviations at the end of their list with only the abbreviations next to the winery-vineyard-varietal-year information. For example, AV – Alexander Valley, CH – Chalk Hill, DCV – Dry Creek Valley, and so on.
- Offer a good selection of 375 ml bottles. This probably goes without saying, but it’s one way to offer fine wines at an affordable price point.
- Make your list a souvenir. Giving a copy of your wine list to your customers just makes good sense … it’s more powerful as a marketing tool and more compelling for repeat or word-of-mouth business than that dinky business card. And why not offer your customers a pencil to make notes directly on that give-away list, nothing what they liked about the wine they chose?
Feedback, anyone? Comments welcome on your favs and gripes about wine lists!