The wine-list is a tool, a means of communicating the wines that we have available for sale in the restaurant. As we have nearly 600 bins on the list at the moment, it is quite an important tool, because I have no chance of remembering all those wines, and if I could it would take me half the night to recall them all for you. A wine-list says a lot about an establishment, a clean well presented wine-list that is up to date, accurate and well written shows that you have some pride in your product. It is likely that if you have gone to some effort to present a great wine-list then you are likely to be knowledgable about the wines on offer and are passionate enough about them to look after them in the appropriate manner. However if your list is a mess, stylistically and literally, its out-of date, inaccurate and full of spelling mistakes then the opposite would hold true.
I would like to think that our list falls into the previous category. At fifty pages long, it is quite a challenge keeping it clean, up to date and informative. We are just in the process of evolving the list to the next stage by making it more dynamic and introducing an element of seasonal flexability into the list. Our first iteration was to move to an easier to read format, modelled on the Pied-a terre format that is also used in Gordon Ramsays restaurants. List 2.0 was to introduce colour into the list when we purchased a new colour laser printer. Now I am working on List 3.0.
When trying to plan how this was going to look, I gathered together a collection of wine-lists from some of the best restaurants in the world. El Bulli, Gordon Ramsay, Le Manior, Veritas NYC, the Herbfarm in Washington State, Alain Ducasse's many restaurants and many others. A team of Paco (Restaurant manager), Ross (GM), John (ex F&B Manager), and Greg (Head Waiter) discussed what elements of different lists we liked and why we liked them. From that we kind of established a template to work from. I liked the informal style of the Herbfarms, with nuggets of information about various wines and winemakers. We all liked the design aesthetics of Alain Ducasse at Essex House, with its clean lines and simple layout. We liked the little graphic logos scattered about El Bullis list as page headers. The next stage is to look at the paper we print the lists on. Currently we are using Conqueror Oyster 120gsm to print on. I looked at some really different papers from Arjo, with speckles, flecks of metal, degrees of transparency, cotton papers, banknote grade papers (more expensive than the money itself!!!) and loads of funky colours. The price is the crucial element here. It looks like it will be too expensive to use them for the entire list, but Im hoping to be able to use them for certain seasonal pages.
Now that have decided these things, comes the really hard part. Sitting down and typing it all out. Sounds easy, but believe me its not. After and hour of solid typing your eyeballs start to dry out, you start getting hypnotised by the movement of the curser, and your wrists start to swell up. The worst thing is that if you are lucky you have probably only done about four or five pages. There are currently fifty pages in the wine-list. Pass the icepacks!!!
So Ive been given a deadline. By the 1st September List 3.0 must be ready. Best get working then.