Wine Lists: Selection, Quantity, Layout, Pricing and Display


The days of impossibly long, comprehensive wine lists are coming to an end, as restaurant owners instead favour concise, pared-down lists that match the food selections available.

Ultimately, coming up with the right selection involves a compromise of sorts between breadth and versatility. One way of thinking about this is by using the following rule: if you have 10 white wines on your wine list, then at least one-third of them should be fresh and crisp, one-third of them should be rich and oaky, and the other one-third should help to fill out all the gaps (e.g. off-dry white wines or high-acid white wines).

Moreover, the days of relying on tried-and-true classics grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to drive wine sales are also coming to an end, as restaurant patrons increasingly seek out diversity and exciting new wines such as grape varieties like Arneis, Pecorino, Viognier, Albarino, Dolcetto, Barbera, Brachetto, Frappato, and Nebbiolo, from up-and-coming wine regions or from innovative winemakers.

And, of course, you will want to include wines from a variety of price points. You can use a general rule of thumb that you should always provide at least one affordably priced wine in each category, as well as one high-priced or premium wine for special celebratory occasions. This is the key to coming up with a customer-centric wine list that restaurant patrons are going to love. That’s why some restaurant owners actually cap the margins they are making on their most expensive wines –they realize that by keeping prices artificially lower than they should be, they are also encouraging more patrons to order them.

Selling wines, does not necessary require a wine list. Owners are displaying their wine selection on wine racks, shelves and display fridges with price tags, where customers can view the range themselves and choose the desired bottle.


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