5 tips for creating a brilliant wine list

By Tim Wheeldon

- Last updated on GMT

5 tips for creating a brilliant wine list
Follow these five simple principles to create a wine list that works both for your business and the customer.

In today’s uncertain economic climate, it’s never been more important to asses every aspect of your business’ performance. A wine list can have a huge influence on profitability, and here are just some of the ways in which you can create a list that not only works for your business, but will also excite your customers  

1. Have a plan
It sounds obvious but too many wine lists are put together as an after-thought. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when planning your list: will your customer base be young and open-minded or more traditional? What is your food offering and how will it be reflected and complemented by the wine list? Will there be a theme - for example, wines from just the old world or a list based on organic and biodynamic principles? Having a clear plan in mind will not only make the list easier to curate but will also make more sense to the customer.
 
2.  Size matters
Without a team of sommeliers, a huge wine list will not benefit anyone. Cash will be tied up in bottles that don’t sell and customers will be overawed by the choice that will inevitably lead to down-trading. A well-written, concise list that contains the best examples of your chosen theme will resonate much more with your clientele.

3. The price is right
There’s a fine line between a wine list looking too expensive or too cheap so a bit of local market research will help gauge what can be achieved. The goal is to make money, so don’t be afraid to profit from familiar varieties such as sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and malbec as these will inevitably drive volume. Equally, the best lists promote varied drinking and reward the brave. Offering wines from obscure regions by the glass at lower GPs or taking cash margins for fine wines are a couple of ways to keep wines moving across the board.

4. ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’
Even the best written lists can be intimidating for customers, so having a well-trained team to guide them through is crucial. Training can take many forms from themed tastings to sessions focussing on up-sell techniques. Offering incentives can also be a good way to engage staff. A valued workforce can only enhance the customer experience and in turn will be integral to a wine list’s success.

5. What can your supplier do for you?
Something that’s often overlooked is that many wine suppliers offer so much more than just delivering bottles of wine. A supplier’s performance will ultimately depend on the success of their customers so it’s in their interest to work closely with the restaurants they supply. Advice and training should be readily available but there can be many other perks that suppliers offer that can help drive your wine offering, so it’s always worth asking.

Tim Wheeldon is senior on-trade sales executive at wine merchant Corney & Barrow

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