Vino Perfection: 5 tips to elevate your wine list
Our Fine Wine Specialist, Mark Donohoe, shares his top tips for the perfect wine list.
Choosing what makes the final cut for your wine list can be a challenge. Mark Donohoe, Fine Wine Specialist at Classic Drinks, shares his expert advice on how to build an enticing wine list that makes room for both the classic grape varieties and the up-and-coming labels.
A wine list works best when it offers variety, balance between familiar favourites and exciting newcomers, and clear choices for the customer. Here’s how…
Start at the fringes
If you lead with recognisable grape varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, you give your customers a comfortable place to settle at the start and it becomes harder to upsell.
Lead instead with more obscure but fairly priced, fruit forward and easy drinking wines. We’re thinking of blended or single-varietal wines made from lesser known varietals such as Macabeo, Bobal, Nero d’Avola. These allow your list to create an intriguing first impression, encouraging your customers to explore further.
Customers on a budget can look forward to quality wines at an entry level price point, while customers who are happy to pay more can select more exclusive grape varieties.
Tier your prices
To showcase as many options as possible on style and quality (and avoid underselling), tier your prices by the glass and minimise the number of wines at the same price point. For intuitive upselling and higher cash margins, start with the lowest priced wine, with each subsequent listing representing an increase in both price and quality.
While it’s easy to end up with clusters of the same grape variety on a larger list that covers multiple countries and regions, it can lead to underselling when you’re offering wines by the glass. For maximum choice, a strong list of wines by the glass should only have one Sauvignon, one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Pinot Grigio, and one Malbec, for example. Offering two of any varietal at different prices risks diluting your sales.
Capitalise on your signature wines
Give those customers who skip house wines in search of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Rioja, or Malbec a section further down the list that showcases style and quality. These customers will be happy to pay a premium for your most popular varietals and wine styles, given the quality.
Make your list easy to read
It’s easy to forget that wine lists are intimidating for many customers. When a wine list is hard to read or confusing, the customer will inevitably settle for a house wine and you’ll lose out on an upselling opportunity. Put them at ease and help them choose with a wine list that is easy to follow, starting each listing with a name they recognise, such as the grape variety or region.
Sauvignon Blanc, Hunky Dory, 2019, Marlborough – New Zealand
Sancerre, Les Pierres Blanches, 2019, Loire Valley – France
With so many great wines to choose from, and new regions and varietals regularly breaking through, it’s time to take the mystery out of ordering a wine. Build your best wine list and the customer gets the chance to discover some exciting new experiences, while you can make the most of an important source of revenue.