I attended an intensive three day wine course at the French Culinary Institute in New York recently. This splendid course was led by Andrea Robinson. I’m typing up my notes from the session, and plan to post various segments, to the extent they are interesting to folks.
FCI’s List: Top Ten Tip-Offs You’re in a Wine Wise Restaurant
1. You’re never made to feel you have to spend a lot to get something good.
2. Wine by the glass is taken as seriously as wine in bottles, with a good range of styles and prices, listed prominently so you don’t have to hunt for them.
3. The wine list is presented automatically, so you don’t have to ask for it (and wait for someone to find it). [Acceptable: one wine list per table; Best: one wine list per diner. Windows had a big book and several copies of a “short list” for each table.] [If each diner gets a wine list, all lists should be priced.]*
4. There are lots of quality bottle choices in the moderate price zone.
5. Wine service, whether glass or bottle, is helpful, speedy and proficient.
6. Waiters draw your attention to great values rather than just the expensive stuff.
7. Affordable wine pairings are offered for the signature dishes – either on the menu or by servers.
8. You are offered a taste (or can request one) of wine by the glass before you chose.
9. It’s no problem to split a glass, or get just a half glass, or two ounces in by the glass offerings. (Great for situations when you want only a little wine or want to try a range of different wines.)
10.There’s no such thing as a no-name “house white and red’. House featured wines are fine, but they, and you, merit a name or grape and a region.
Plus some additional pointers from the lectures:
11. The wine list is printed in house and is tied to inventory actually on hand so it is always accurate. The list may not be as fancy, but an accurate list is better for servers and guests. This avoids, among other things, not being able to provide a wine guests have ordered and serving a wine of a vintage other than expected.
12. Words difficult to pronounce are expressed phonetically: e.g. Qupe (coo-pay), Möet (mow-et ), etc.
* The CFI has some suggestions on organizing wine lists; I’ll post them later together with examples.