appellations and approved viticultural areas (AVAs), single vineyard barrel
fermented, critter labels and globetrotting winemakers, restaurant wine lists
were a simple read. Essentially your choice boiled down to red or white wine,
all of which was equally sweet.
Those days are
long gone in a province where the inhabitants are mad about wine. With B.C.’s
annual per capita consumption growing monthly and heading north toward 20
litres per head (similar to UK consumption), drinking quality table wine is
fast becoming an integral part of the every day dining experience. Both
sophisticated and thoughtful, many of today’s B.C. restaurant wine lists are as
good as any you’ll find on the continent.
wholeheartedly endorse the notion of better and not necessarily bigger wine
lists, sophistication comes with a price — and it’s more than just the
cost of the bottle. There is a fine line between giving the customer the
variety and depth they demand and totally confusing the person given the task
of actually choosing something to go with his or her meal. Obviously a wine
list that scares off as many customers as it attracts is not the goal of any
frequently charged with reviewing and, in some cases, evaluating wine lists, I
thought it might be useful to breakdown the format of the modern wine list and
see just what all the shouting is about.
If you are 35 years
of age or older you may remember the term “house wine” although, hopefully, you
won’t remember any of the wine. House wine was never much of bargain, at least
quality-wise, and its disappearance off the modern-day list can only be
interpreted as a good thing. Wine-by-the-glass is where the action is today and
it’s by far your best opportunity to explore new wines without “investing” in
an entire bottle. For many it has become the perfect pre-dinner solution before
ordering that bottle of old faithful.
restaurants have even instituted regularly scheduled taste programs. These are
designed to offer customers a “sneak” preview of what is on the regular wine
list, again without forcing you to buy the entire bottle.
From here most
wine lists launch into a standard format that breaks out the white wine from
the red. Many methods are used including progressing from the lightest- to the
richest-textured wines, from the simplest to the most complex, or even from the
youngest to the oldest. That said, today’s favoured and no doubt most successful
wine list format is the one sorted by grape variety and/or blend.