5 Tips for Creating a Wine List

Sommeliers are a huge asset to restaurants that serve wine. It’s their job to not only create an appealing wine list, but help sell it as well. But let’s be honest—a sommelier is a luxury that most restaurants simply can’t afford. So what if your restaurant doesn’t have one?

Without a sommelier, restaurant owners and managers are next in line to design a wine list—often with the help of a knowledgeable wine rep. The sweet spot you’re aiming for? Maximizing profitability while enticing guests at the same time. Here are our five tips for creating a wine list at your restaurant.

1. Keep Ambience in Mind

Between the concept creation, menu design, lighting, staffing, floor layout, and décor, there’s an extensive amount of planning that takes place to create the perfect ambience for your restaurant. Creating a wine list that is an extension of that personality is very important.

2. Suggest Pairings

Guests might know they want to drink wine, but they don’t always know what it pairs with on the menu. Providing food and wine pairings (whether displayed on the physical menu or by a server’s recommendation) makes the customer feel more confident in their choices. Not to mention it’ll help you upsell certain bottles of wine.

3. Taste Your Options

Your servers and bartenders should know what they’re selling. Sampling your restaurant’s wine options through tastings allows you to offer recommendations and pairing options for guests. Plus, it’s fun to do!

4. Rotate Your Wines

Like the wine poured from the bottle, your selection should be fluid. There’s a wide variety of wines out there, and rotating your list (whether annually, seasonally, monthly, etc.) allows your guests to experiment. Plus, it’ll tell you which types of wine customers want to see more of on your menu.

5. Offer by the Glass

A whole bottle of wine can intimidate guests, especially if they’re not typically wine drinkers. Offering wine by the glass can introduce them to various wines without committing to buying an entire bottle. Even if you don’t want to offer “by the glass” for every wine on your menu, it’ll help you never miss a potential sale. Plus, glass pours are an entry point to eventual bottle sales.

We’re Here to Help

Not sure where to start with creating your wine list or even improving the one you already have? Restaurant consultants like myself are here to guide you through the process. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, I’ve seen my fair share of restaurants go through this very same struggle. We want to help you build the foundation of a strong, profitable restaurant.

Ready to [re]design your wine list? Let’s find your restaurant’s bread and butter. Fill out a contact form to set up an initial consult with Salt & Cayenne today. Cheers!