What would be my “blue sky” in a restaurant about wine?
- A wine list that has a strong local wine assortment (if in a wine growing country)
- In spite of point 1, a wine list that also has a suitable range of wine from other zones. This can be excused in restaurants located right in the middle of a winegrowing area. As a rule: the closer to the vines, the higher the proportion of local wines. Nobody goes to Burgundy to drink Bordeaux.
- A wine list that includes not only well known wines but also “hidden gems”. Especially if the restaurant is specialized in creative cooking, I am disappointed if I choose to eat, say, “lamb with liquorice and baby octopuses”, and the most original wine in the list can be found in the nearest discount supermarket.
- Good glasses and service, including decanting when indicated, and adequate wine temperature.
- A sommelier or waiter that know their wines and give good advice, taking risks and recommending unfamiliar bottles.
- Encouraging (or at least not frowning upon) taking away any remaining wine. As a matter of principle, it is the guests’ wine, as they have paid for it. On top of that, if they can take it away they may open another bottle. Additional motivation is given by the ever stricter laws on drunken driving; in a dinner for two, if one person can only have a glass to avoid sleeping in jail, the other had better not empty the bottle.
- Opening up the range, and offering wines for aperitif and dessert.
- Including an assortment of wines by the glass, with some specific cases (as Sauternes for foie).
- Suggesting for each item of the menu a matching wine.
- And all this at attractive prices! I can understand a hefty mark-up in the case of old vintages, but it is ridiculous to charge three times the producer price for a bottle that has been in the restaurant only for a few weeks.
I do not include such basic things as well kept wines and a service that does not spill the wine all over. Most restaurants are above that.
There are some other things that I consider an added bonus (as keeping old vintages which are unavailable otherwise), but these 10 points, adapted to every restaurant circumstances, should be a must.
From time to time I intend to post comments on restaurants about in which degree the preceding items are met. I know that it is difficult to meet all these requirements (there is some tension between the 9 first ones and the last) but I find that many fine restaurants regarding food are sadly behind in matters of wine. Fortunately, there is a positive tendency of improvement that cannot be ignored.
Although I am also crazy about food, I will usually not make any comments. Only if I feel that the food’s price-quality ratio is poor will I mention it.
Let us hope that the present trend will continue!