Restaurant wine lists fascinate me. The good ones are a fantastic way to discover and experience new and different wines that are typically unavailable at local retail or through direct order. Unfortunately, I find the good wine lists few and far between, and that is baffling. In most restaurants I visit while traveling the county it is obvious how much time, thought and attention is put into the concept, experience and decor and the level of imagination and creativity that is poured into the menu. Yet, for all the attention, creativity and detail put into the restaurant and its food, I still find far too many wine lists to be stocked with bottles that can found at the local grocery store, marked up by greater than 100%.
That’s why I love reading articles like the one it yesterday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune about how change may be on the horizon. The post heralded that, in Minneapolis, at least, Restaurant Wine Lists Have Never Been Better.
The article identified four reasons why local Twin Cities restaurant wine lists appear to be improving:
- The farm-to-table movement is bleeding over into wine lists as restauranteurs look to match higher quality and agriculture-centric menus with wines of the the same caliber.
- Millennials are the most discerning and adventurous wine consumers the market has seen, primarily because the proliferation of digital information and education have taken the mystery out of wine for this generation.
- Competition is forcing restaurants to go beyond the familiar grocery store names and use unique wine lists to differentiate themselves from other dining options.
- Distributors, the lifeline for restaurant wine stocks in the three-tier system, are diversifying, with more niche distributors developing higher-quality options and larger distributors becoming more adventurous to match the niche players.
Whatever the reasons, it’s a wonderful trend that needs to be spread more quickly and more widely. There are currently more than 8,400 wineries in the United States alone and there is at least one winery in every one of our 50 States, not to mention the amazing variety of quality of imports. With so much variety available and so many discoveries to be made, restaurants would be well-served to go beyond just an interesting concept and menu and provide alongside a thoughtful and unique wine experience as well.
As Fernande Garvin wrote in The Art of French Cooking: “Wine makes a symphony of a good meal.”