Does your wine list speak to your customers? Create a Wine List that sells!

You may run and manage a great restaurant, you have good menu selections, satisfied customers, and your restaurant might have even done some upgrades or remodeling recently.  But when is the last time you upgraded or remodeled your wine list?

Your Wine List speaks to people, it relates a message that you’re on top of what is current and still maintains what is classic. Your wines compliment your menu items and restaurant style. Don’t try to be something you’re not, if you manage a cafe, grill or casual restaurant your list should reflect that casual style. If your establishment is fine dining a much more sophisticated wine list is typically expected.

Either way, wines sales have proven to be a major contributor to the bottom line. The question comes down to, wow do you revamp the wine list? And more importantly, how do move those wines so your bottles aren’t sitting about collecting dust?

It’s time to take a good look at your wine list and bring it up to date. The days of Cabernet and Chardonnay heavy list have past. Now having said that, that doesn’t mean you take all the fine selling Cabernet’s off the list, you just need to balance your offerings to have a better selection and variety.

Diversity is key.  Have a selection of wines that allow consumers to try something new. List pairing suggestions on your menu and break out of the norm. White wines like Albariño from Spain, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and French varieties like Viognier or Roussanne/Marsanne blends for example should be on your menu. These wines pair with so many menu items, and offer a great price point from restaurant purchase to resale mark up. Some food friendly reds should include; Tempranillo (Rioja), Malbec, Carmenéré, Sangiovese (Chianti), Zinfandels and red blends just to name a few. And don’t forget the rosés and sparkling wines.

A few tips I often give when consulting on wine list:

  • Organize you wine list by varietal and/or county.  
    • Start with: Sparkling/Champagne; Rosés; Whites (light to heavy); Reds, Light to heavy); Ports and Dessert wines.
  • Do not organize your list by price (a list with low to high price is a sales killer)
  • Your description should be simple: name of the wine, vintage, county of origin, indicate the body (use light, medium or full) and the price per glass / bottle.
  • Have a good selection of wines by the glass. If you’re a casual restaurant then you can list BTG separate, however if you simply add this into your wine list with a BTG price and bottle price – you get more customers viewing all the options on your wine menu and often leads to more bottle purchases.
  • Your selection of wines should offer varying price points to appeal to a variety of customers.
  • Knowledgeable presentation and suggested pairings – your servers need to know the basics in wine, proper table service and be able to make pairing recommendations confidently. This can be a critical make or break in your wines sales. Use an online training course for your servers, like Culinary Wine Institute, both affordable and time saving.

Another recommendation that works fabulously is the Coravin – the device that lets you pour wine without ever removing the cork. I use this when I need to move the last bottle or two of some high end wine. Put the wine on a by the glass special, say $20-$25 a glass – use the Coravin to pour saving the bottle from being opened and keeping the wine preserved until you finally sell it all.  You may get a customer hooked on a new variety just by having a by the glass price allowing them to taste the wine without having to buy the pricey bottle.

These are just a few tips and suggestions to keep wine sales flowing. We are coming upon a change of seasons, no better time than now to take a look at your wine list and see how you can serve up more green $$.  Cheers!

Pamela Wood, CEO and Director of Education is a Certified Sommelier, a Certified American Wine Expert and one of only 447 Certified Wine Educators worldwide. Check out and learn about the Jumpstart online program.  Email:  Culinary Wine Institute, 2100 Park Ave. #682594, Park City, UT 84098