|by Emmanuel Gardinier, February 2005
For the last 15 years the wine culture has been constantly growing in
the USA, local producers have been hard at work improving the quality,
and the public has responded.
Should you decide to change or create a new wine list, here are some
tips on how to improve your offering:
1. The wine list should reflect your concept.
This is pure common sense, but as Iíve seen too often, you should offer
the wines that match your cooking style; no sense in featuring a Chateaux
Latour or Opus One if youíre offering an all you can eat buffet. Involve
the chef into the selection process; you might be surprised in the pairings
he will think of.
Your wine list should be eclectic, and should feature a blend of classical
products as well as New World wine. If you are located in a wine area,
of course most of your wines should be local, with a selection from other
places. Have a good balance between reds and whites, and try to find small
wineries you can feature.
3. Price range
The wine selection should offer a wide range of prices. Check how much
the patrons are spending on food, then, have around 60% of your prices
below that point. For example, if the average spent on food per person
is $50, 60% of your wines should have a price below that point. Your guests
can count, so be logical on the math and you wonít end up with a half-bottle
costing two thirds of the regular bottle. If you have those very expensive
bottles, I suggest lowering your ratios, and making a lower margin on them
unless you just want to keep them collecting dust. I was able to sell an
incredible amount of bottles in the four digit range just because they
where reasonably priced and the people who could afford those, knew perfectly
well how much they cost at retail or at auction.
4. Check your sales
They will show you your guestís tendencies and you will be able to
orient your wine selection according to their actual preferences.
5. Wines by the glass.
Patrons are more and more interested in trying new wines and do not
want necessarily to buy whole bottles. Have a good selection of wines by
the glass with a nice price range. Be creative, pair them to your menu,
and offer a special tasting formula. Make it interesting and fun!
6. Half Bottles
The overall tendency is to drink less (nobody likes a DUI), so donít
overlook half bottles; they can be a precious ally in your selection. Have
a special half bottle section, you will see that itís a growing trend,
and they are perfect for couples or singles!
7. Make your list simple
Whether itís organized by regions, grape, or style, the wine list should
be clear, well spaced, and in an easy to read font (especially for those
of us who need glasses). It is most helpful if you can show some information
on the taste and suggested food pairings.
8. Involve the staff.
Not only should the staff be trained on your wine list, but you should
also involve them in the selection.Set-up regular tastings with your sommelier,
waiters and cooks. You will be surprised by the interest and motivation
that comes from this initiative. New ideas will emerge and your staff will
be able to communicate better with the guests.
9. Stop your sommelier from being a wine snob.
The sommelier should be helpful, not condescending. He should use simple
terms when describing the wine, and always suggest moderately priced wines
unless the guest shows an interest in the more expensive ones. He should
be a guide, not a judge, (so what if a guest chooses to drink a heavy red
wine with that Dover sole)?
10. Do not overstock.
The last property I managed had 70,000 bottles in stock when I arrived;
it sure was nice to boast about it, but the financial burden can be overwhelming.
On paper it looks nice to buy the wine young and age it yourself, but the
market fluctuates a lot, so you can be in for a financial rollercoaster.
The wine market is so competitive that you are now able to quite easily
find even the rarest bottles at an interesting price.
About the author: Emmanuel Gardinier is an award-winning hotelier;
he has spent the last 20 years managing properties in over 12 countries.
He is committed to provide the highest standard of services to his guests.
He has specialized in upgrading properties, as well as streamlining operations
and staff training. He has also been an active consultant and as given
lectures and classes in many world-renowned hotel schools. Now settled
in the USA, he is offering comprehensive on site work and is available
to help owners and managers achieve their goals regardless of the size
or style of property.