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How to create a short wine list

One of the unforeseen consequences of Covid-19 is the effect it could have on wine lists. Restaurants are short of cash and don’t want to be sitting on vast reserves in their cellar; merchants are, in many cases, lowering their minimum order sizes to help out; and menus are likely to be either on-screen or disposable.

And since no-one wants to be reprinting a 40-page wine list after every customer, increasingly we’re going to be seeing the one-page, two-sided wine list.

On one hand, this maybe just exaggerates a trend that we were seeing anyway – but there’s no denying that for many members of this website it could necessitate some pretty major re-thinking of their wine offering – at least in the short- to medium-term.

So, how do you go about putting together a 40-bin wine list?

As someone who’s spent many years putting together lists precisely like this for various venues and events, we asked ex Hakkasan head of wine, Christine Parkinson, for her five top tips on how to create a shorter list.

  1. Keep it balanced – don’t just use up what you’ve got left in the cellar. Make sure there’s a spread of prices and styles.
  2. Keep it profitable by focusing on the middle of the price range. A good small list has an entry level red and white, a couple of higher priced gems, and plenty of interest in the middle to keep the average spend up.
  3. Have a plan for when the stock runs out – a small list really suffers when something on it isn’t available (not like a big list, where there’s always something else similar to offer the guest). Maybe move wines to a ‘bin ends’ section when stock is getting low, and incentivise your team to get them sold.
  4. Keep it fresh by running a wine of the week: something that isn’t on the list. Otherwise a small list can get boring for guests and employees alike.
  5. Don’t be afraid to focus and express the character of the restaurant: there’s no reason your 40-bin list can’t consist of: 10 all-time favourites that everyone loves and 30 unusual, exciting wines that will really define your list and create a buzz.

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