A wine list is a difficult beast to look after. Prices change, vintages change, producers stop making certain wines – these are the easy administrative changes that we have to keep abreast of. The hard part is controlling the size of a wine list. Too big and it just puts people off and ties up a lot of money in your cellar, too small and your guests don’t really have enough choice. It is almost easier to have a long wine list because you can just keep buying but when constrained to a limited number of wines each wine has to fight for its place on the list.
At Gliffaes we have just over 80 wines including half bottles and champagnes, a 50:50 split between red and white. This seems to me to offer a good balance between offering variety and the problem of holding too much stock. For stock taking reasons I make one big change of the list about every 18 months over one very long day. This year I replaced about half of the list after attending a number of trade tastings around the country.
Who makes the cut?
First off I have to like the wine, that’s easy.
Two. It should not be available in every supermarket across the land.
Three. The wine should be that little bit different or unusual or be a superb example of a popular style.
Four. The wine must hit a certain price point.
A word on pricing.
A guest once told me that he equates the wine on a restaurant bill as the same cost as having another diner at the table. The industry does have a bad reputation for marking up wines highly. Here at Gliffaes I work on a cash margin rather than a percentage margin. So the more expensive wines on the list offer the best value. For example a £15 bottle (ex VAT) could sell in some restaurants for £60 on a margin of 70% where I would sell that wine for £34.
So what’s new on the list.
I was really impressed by a clutch of superb German Rieslings and have listed three of them and have even cut my cash margin by a third to encourage people to try them. German wines are a hard sell but these Mosel wines with low alcohol content are quite superb. Continuing with Riesling I have listed two new world examples from Washington and New Zealand which show a different style to the Germans.
After bringing half a pallet of wine back from South Africa a couple of years ago I felt that some of them are now ready to be drunk, I have added four of them to the list along with an increased selection of Rhone and Italian wines.
More by the glass.
Pretty soon I hope to have a new wine saving gadget up and running that will allow us to offer more wines by the glass. I would like to extend our choice up to around eight reds and eight whites by the glass. Wines make up 70% of our bar sales mix so it seems right to offer as much choice as possible.
I am always happy to show guests our modest cellar, so please just ask.