What a pleasure, at a restaurant, to treat yourself to a glass of wine or a bottle of wine to accompany your menu. However, the task is not that simple, and many restaurants do not have real skills in oenology. How do you know, then, if a restaurant wine list is of quality? Here are some clues that can guide you.
The wine list does not carry the obligatory information
Writing a wine list for a restaurant is very regulated, and certain mentions must be present. Thus, EEC regulation no. 2392-89, article 40 of July 24, 1989, requires restaurateurs to indicate in their wine lists:
- The net price of the wine, service included;
- The name of the wine (appellation or grape varieties);
- The quantity of the container, whether it is served by the glass, by the bottle, or even by the pitcher;
- The color of the wine (red wine, white wine or rosé wine);
- The alcoholic strength of the wine;
- The origin of the wine (wine-growing region);
- The mention “organic farming” if this is the case.
A wine list must have all of these mentions, without exception. This is a legal minimum which allows you to choose your wine with full knowledge of the product that will be served.
If this information is incomplete, or even absent, you can now suspect a great lack of professionalism and knowledge on the part of the restaurateurs.
Furthermore, if one of the wines mentioned on the menu is not available, for whatever reason, the sommelier or server must indicate this on the menu.
The wine list is not complete
It may happen that a wine list meets all the requirements of the law, but that certain additional information is missing for some references. For example, you can have several very well documented wines, and in the middle of the list, find a wine with no vintage, no color, or even no AOC.
Whether by forgetting, or by ignorance of this precise information, such a problem reveals a lack of seriousness on the part of the restaurateur. We can then assume that he botched the development of his wine list , or worse yet, that he does not know precisely the wines he has in his cellar.
This is a bad point for him, because his wine list is a real added value for his establishment . The consumer should not have to look for missing information themselves, and should be able to choose their wine with full knowledge of each vintage available.
The map is not easy to read
A wine list is nothing other than a listing of the bottles available in the cellar . So, to make understanding and reading easy and pleasant, you need to be able to offer a careful wine list , whether in terms of typography, or even colors.
Like a CV for the cellar, the wine list must therefore be attractive. It is even recommended to go to the essentials, by offering a refined card, with a nice writing style and a font large enough to make it easy to read.
Likewise, no spelling mistakes should catch the customer's eye. Indeed, making a typo on an AOC, a domain name, or even a vintage is a lack of respect towards the winemaker, and reflects a lack of professionalism.
Furthermore, a sloppy wine list can suggest to customers a lack of seriousness in the service, as in the kitchen.
The menu lacks variety
In a restaurant, we of course expect to find a varied menu and menu, in order to give the customer the choice to taste what they like. For wine, it's the same thing. We must be able to respond to customer tastes, and thus offer a varied wine list .
We often see wine lists offering only Bordeaux red wines and Chardonnay white wines. If these are usually safe bets, what will a customer who doesn't like one nor the other choose?
In the same way, a menu which only lists wines from the same estate suggests that the restaurateur has signed a partnership with the winegrower, and that he has an advantageous price on the boxes of bottles. But we are entitled to wonder if he really made this choice for the quality of the wines , or for the good deal.
Finally, a wine list that is not very varied can also reflect a lack of oenological knowledge of the restaurant , which goes to the essentials and does not take the time to work on its menu.
It is therefore advisable to vary the styles of wine , whether it be colors, wine-growing regions, aromatic structures, alcohol levels... So that everyone can find what they are looking for!
A lack of logic with the menu
For a wine to be appreciated at its true value, you must be able to find the perfect food and wine pairing , which will enhance both the dish and the wine. It is therefore logical to offer a wine list that is perfectly consistent with the menu .
A regional specialty restaurant must then offer wines from the same region, while a fish restaurant must include wines adapted to seafood products, and in particular white wines.
But consistency is also achieved in terms of the price and quality of the bottle of wine. It would not be logical to offer great wines for several tens of euros in a small regional bistro. Conversely, customers of a gourmet restaurant expect to be able to taste exceptional vintages with their menu. Likewise, wine by the glass should be offered in simple, friendly restaurants.
Inappropriate wine service
Once the wine is chosen, it is not too late to check whether the restaurateur has good wine skills or not. Thus, a perfect wine list does not always guarantee impeccable service, and certain criteria must be observed.
The choice of wine glasses
Wine is not enjoyed in just any type of glass. And if some restaurateurs think they are doing originality and design by offering original glasses, this above all reflects a poor knowledge of the conditions of serving wine .
Therefore, a wine glass must have a stem, in order to be able to hold the glass without heating the wine or leaving fingerprints.
Finally, the size of the wine glass must be adapted to the type of wine:
- Red wine: glass of 35 cl minimum (50 to 70 cl ideally), which is filled halfway;
- White wine and rosé wine: 30 to 35 cl glass, which is filled a third of the way.
Furthermore, the opening of the glass is also important depending on the wine, and allows for appropriate serving.
Wine serving temperature
Not all wines are drunk at the same temperature. Too cold, the aromas will be completely masked, too hot, the alcohol will be too imposing. Service temperatures must therefore be respected:
- Red wine: between 12 and 18°C;
- White wine: between 10 and 14°C;
- Rosé wine: between 9 and 12°C.
If the choice of wine is important to you when you go to a restaurant, you will now be able to spot the quality of the wine list at a glance. If you don't know much about it, you can then turn to the wines of Provence , safe values to accompany your dishes.