It’s the moment of truth. Your spouse is whispering to not draw attention, your guest may not know the difference in a chardonnay and pinot grigio and, worse, there’s the impending stare from your waiter, who clearly thinks you’re trying to impress your dining partners.
It’s the dreaded wine list. I have been writing about the paper deity for years. But what is it about these pieces of paper put before us during our dining experience that causes such anxiety?
Is it the pressure of choosing the perfect wine? Are we simply overwhelmed by all of the options? Or do our minds skip ahead to the worst: What if the wine has a fault and we’re faced with refusing the bottle.
My mentor, wine writer Frank Prial said it brilliantly: “At best you will meet your trial with steadfastness. … At worst you can console yourself that you’ve come a long way from the days when you were afraid to order the bottle in the first place.”
But what if the experience weren’t so overwhelming? What if, instead of a leather-bound book of wines to choose from, there was a simple one-page list.
There was a time when menus and the wine list were handwritten daily on boards and paper without the help of the computer.
I think we’re seeing a revival of this kind of simplicity.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason. It could be the economy (restaurants simply can’t afford to devote as much space and revenue to maintaining a large wine list) or the increasing popularity of local food and the farm-to-table food movement, but I’ve noticed wine lists are getting shorter.
Fewer dishes on the menu in many cases equals fresher ingredients in the kitchen. And the same could be said of wine. A simplified wine list means fewer open bottles and more moving of inventory. With these shorter lists we are seeing more focus on wines that pair best with the menu.
I enjoy a short wine list. It shows the personality of the restaurant and makes decision time much shorter.
- 2015 Kris Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $11 retail)
- 2015 Bell Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $18 retail)