- Posted by Danielle Gillespie
Let me ask you a question: if you go to a restaurant, do you eat the same thing every time? Or, if you go to the movies, do you watch the same movie every time? Chances are good that you answered no to these questions. So why should your guests drink the same wine every time they go out to eat?
[Note: if by chance you answered yes to these questions, feel free to go back to your watered-down Chardonnay, you can skip reading this post.]
I love a good by the glass list and I’m a huge fan of the “warm up” glass of wine…you know, the one you drink while you’re picking your bottle. It’s a great way to de-program while at the same time taking a glimpse of the style and direction of the restaurant, receiving a mini-preview of coming attractions, if you will.
But, for other kinds of guests there is more to the by the glass program: consider the people who are dining with friends or spouses who don’t drink wine (gasp!) or maybe your guest is just stopping by for a quick sip before heading somewhere else. And, there’s the case where your guest wants to change their wine with each course.
These guests don’t want the same old tired glass of wine; they want more from their glass so offer them something exciting. Providing interesting wines by the glass will not only encourage your guests to drink boldly but can also provide you with some insight into trending likes and dislikes.
When building your by the glass wine list, start with some of the usual suspects such as: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir. Offer these at a comfortable price point so that upon first scan, guests immediately feel at ease.
Once the “usuals” have been addressed, you can add some creative flair: incorporate different grape varieties, regions and prices to offer depth and breadth to your list.
For example, you can inspire some cautious adventure by offering familiar varietals in both a house and high-end price point.
Or, pick a grape variety and highlight the style differences that result from growing the same grape in different regions. Napa Cabernet die-hards might be willing to take a small step outside their comfort zone to try the same grape grown in Washington state. More adventurous drinkers might even consider the left bank of Bordeaux.
For breadth, consider expanding your list to include grape options that are not too crazy but still offer diversity such as:
Don’t be ashamed, go ahead and offer a White Zinfandel; it is the gateway wine to all the other grapes, after all.
Grüner Veltliner (Austria) Light & Crisp
Pinot Grigio (Italy) Light & Crisp
Albariño (Spain) Fruity & Crisp
Riesling (Germany) Fruity & Crisp
Zinfandel (United States) Earth & Spice
Sangiovese (Italy) Earth & Spice
Shiraz (Australia) Big & Bold
Malbec (Argentina) Big & Bold
Add a few of these suggestions to your list and BAM! You just created a world tour, offering your guests the opportunity to experience different times, climates and terroir!
Order a case or two of a particular wine and when it’s gone, that is the end of it. Generate some urgency to try the wine and change the list often to inspire guests to return frequently.
Who knows, offering guests something they know nothing about, in a low-pressure situation might just inspire interest for more wine drinking at your restaurant.
Get the Juice in the Glass
Get your chef involved with some pairings and feature the paired wines on your by the glass menu. This approach not only provides your guest with a peak at the menu direction but also provides options for those guests who wish to change wines with courses.
Conversely, for each of your by the glass wines, make sure that there are a couple of different dishes that match the wines. If you encounter a sole wine lover at a table (or even a solo diner), you can be sure there will be a complementary wine and dine option available.
“… Being able to taste many different wines that pair with the chef’s culinary creations is where the magic-making happens.” —Jason Ruppert (Molina)
Now tap the mind of your sommelier or favorite on-staff wine expert: tag certain wines on your list as “sommelier favorites” or “staff favorites”. This will help people who are timid about asking questions but are still interested in branching out.
And finally, don’t discount the value of using a technology like SpectraVin, to help guests choose.
Keep it Fresh
“This stale wine is delicious,” said no one, ever. Stale wine doesn’t taste good, will not encourage your guests to take a chance on something new and will cause you to loose credibility as a wine specialist.
There are a number of great wine preservation options in all price ranges:
- The Napa Technology Wine Station is the Cadillac of them all.
- The Coravin is a reliable and professional solution to let you serve wines that you might not otherwise offer by the glass.
- VacuVin wine savers are effective and extremely affordable. These work best for short-term (one or two nights maximum) preservation.
Looking for some other pro-tips? Check out his article that provides real life examples from wine professionals who are passionate about their by the glass wine lists.
A great wine by the glass program offers a stress-free way for guests to try something new without the heavy-duty commitment to a full bottle purchase. Even if you open something more expensive, you can probably cover your cost in one or two pours and you will likely gain a lifelong wine guest who will return often and bring friends.