How to make wine lists

The content of the present corresponds to the Seminar given by: Alfredo Lachos, Titled by The Spanish School of Sommeliers.
A good cellar is essential in a good restaurant
(Alfredo Lachos)
There is an axiom that a good wine list is a sign that we are going to find an outstanding level of kitchen in a restaurant. The existence of a great offer of wines has always been an excellent parameter to judge the qualities of a restaurantAt the same time, you cannot conceive of a good gastronomic offer without a magnificent selection of wines. Two sides of the same monWineseda. But ... is it really like this in the real world of Spanish public catering? Do the restaurants make your wine lists, do you understand its importance?
The ideal is to go to sumiller or your own professional restaurant to prepare the menu, since he is the person who is going to be in charge of offering the wines to the clients and advising them on the ones that best accompany the dishes they have ordered. If you do not have a qualified professional, it is best to be advised by someone you trust.

When profiling a letter, several premises are usually taken into account:
  • The location of the restaurant. If you are located in a wine-producing region, the selection of wines from the area itself must be wide. Enough to satisfy local customers or foreigners who want to know what is produced there.
  • The menu must be made taking into account the gastronomic offer that characterizes the place.
  • It should reflect the ambition and aspirations of the restaurant.

How to make it?

In response to the aforementioned recommendations, a personal preparation proposal could be:

The letter must present:
  • The name of the appellation of origin or production area.
  • The name of the wine and the winery.
  • The type of wine: white, rosé, red ...
  • Add it.
  • The price.
It must be stated the price of the bottle or the glass in the case of sparkling, generous, dessert wines or liqueurs that are offered in this way.

It can be ordered in different ways; one of them is in alphabetical order the designations of origin and within them:
  • White, rosé and national red wines.
  • White and red foreign wines.
  • Sparkling: cavas and champagne.
  • Dessert wines.
  • Generous wines.
  • Besides, liqueurs and mineral waters. Liquors must be part of the same letter or in an annex for two reasons: so that the client knows of their existence and for commercial reasons. The client may have knowledge of the offer and its price. If you do not find it in writing, you can doubt the price they will charge you.

Within each section, the wines will go from younger to older.

In the elaboration of letters there are people who prefer to illustrate it with some brief explanations about the area, the winery and the characteristics of each wine. I am not very supportive, because it distracts and complicates the choice for the client. It is more advisable to write next to the wine the grape caste or castes with which it is made. Others prefer to print a wine label or a photo of the variety.

The commercial reality indicates that a great wine list serves, in addition to giving the local category, to sell what the professional considers. When a good part of the clientele is faced with a wide and dense menu, he looks at it, he loves it, but the offer is such that he does not know how to opt for a specific wine. Then ask the professional for advice for advice.

A necessary reflection for many restaurants It is about the richness of seeing, on the tables, a good assortment of bottles of different brands. It is a sign of poverty to enter a restaurant to have a look and verify that, if there are ten tables, in eight or nine of them the wine they are consuming is the same.

The wine list shows us the ambition and aspirations of the restaurant.

The menu should always be compensated: offer wines from different designations of origin, which are well represented in the national geography, attend to various price scales with a greater emphasis on those with a good relationship quality-price, and culminate with some sour cherries that give it prestige, variety of types and vintages, have young and aged white wines, dry and fruity made in different areas and with different castes, young and aged red wines, classic and modern with some brands of fashion ... In a self-respecting menu a selection of foreign wines is recommended.

It is not necessary to have many copies of the letter. It is recommended that it can be comfortably replaceable since in the end it makes it easier for you to introduce new wines and change vintages. Computers and printers today allow practically daily updating of letters, although very few restaurants they do it in Spain.

Purchase of wines and renewal of the menu

The sommelier or wine manager must know control stocks and when you're going to run out of wine. Order should be made when there are few bottles left so as to never run out of stock. It makes a very bad effect that the client chooses a wine that is on the menu and is not available because we have finished.

There is a very clear maxim: wine must be profitable for the restaurant. It is advisable that the purchase is consistent with the sale. Today there is no point in storing dozens of boxes like it used to be. There are certain recommended premises:
  • Do not accumulate bottles of those wines to which we suppose an ephemeral life.
  • To know at all times the state in which the wines are found.
  • Select some expensive and prestigious wines to dress the menu. They are not the ones that have a greater rotation or benefit for the premises but they give entity and category to the list.
  • If you have economic capacity, it is advisable to buy wine to save and be able to offer some previous vintages that are in better condition to consume at that time.
  • Wine accumulation is neither good nor profitable. If the service provided by the providers is satisfactory, it is better to place orders more regularly. This way, you don't store extra wine and it doesn't cost much. In addition, the wine is usually preserved more adequately in the warehouses of the distributors than in the warehouses of many restaurants. The basis of this theory is profitability. With an agile and efficient service, the restaurant can offer a greater number of brands and a more reasonable price since it is not obliged to maintain an excessive stock and to be able to rotate the wines with greater speed.

House wine

One of the most controversial topics. Its defenders argue that this is how a good wine is offered at a more affordable price because a large batch has been purchased at a more advantageous price. Detractors argue that house wines must all be since for that they have been conscientiously chosen by the professional.
The truth is that it is an escape route for mediocre professionals, since there is nothing easier than putting a wine on the table without having to squeeze your brain and worry about choosing the most suitable wine with the command. For this you have to dedicate time and certain knowledge. Without a specific house wine, the professional has a broader scope of action, he can recommend wines from different areas and castes every month or every week. If you have many boxes of the same wine, you depend on the wine and it is much more advisable that the wine depends on you and you can offer the customer the wine that you consider at any time without having the obligation to always sell it.

The price of wine

Some years ago the restaurants excessive margins were applied to the wines; it was multiplied by three with respect to the cost price. That discouraged many customers from ordering the second bottle or choosing a more expensive wine. The most logical thing is to charge a minimum amount to the wines and that the margin will decrease proportionally to the increase in the price of the wine.

The same margin cannot be applied to a wine of 500 pesetas as to one of 6.000, in the first case it is justified to charge 1.500 pesetas per bottle to amortize the expenses of the premises, the product and the professional, and in the second it would be recommended that the price does not exceed 60%. What in the letter that wine of 6.000 pesetas will cost us no more than 10.000 pesetas.

The affordable price of the wines allows a greater and better rotation of the wines. Of the wines that are scarce and interesting for the restaurant you have to buy something else.

An interesting proposal is to increase the price of desserts a little to serve with them a glass of sweet wine to accompany them. It is the only way to publicize these wines so characteristic and with so much roots and history within our culture. It is also the way to be able to monetize them since it is well known that on many occasions the customer friendly demands a glass to finish the meal without charge to his pocket.

Finally, we must emphasize the importance of the professional at the service of wine, since without their personal commitment and advice most of the locals would recommend the same wines and always from the same areas. Unamuno already said that "wines are not sold, you have to sell them", and this is his job. Without your cooperation, it would be difficult for customers to get to know wines from areas other than the classic ones and it would be impossible to rotate those excellent jumillas, spots, cariñenas, canaries ... outside their places of origin.

The true wealth of a restaurant, in terms of wine, is understood, is to offer us and make us know wines from different origins.
I am a dreamer and in my dreams I believe that a better world is possible, that no one knows more than anyone, we all learn from everyone. I love gastronomy, numbers, teaching and sharing all the little I know, because by sharing I also learn. "Let's all go together from foundation to success"