Just write the wine list, please

Krister Bengtsson
Published 06-July-2021

After a number of visits to Gothenburg, Sweden, recently I have had enough. The restaurateurs have to get their wine lists together if they want to give good service to wine lovers, writes Star Wine List's Gothenburg-born founder Krister Bengtsson.

It was early dinner time at a sunny outdoor terrace and I heard a familiar story: "We have so many wines and they rotate a lot and so much is happening, so we don't have a wine list. But I can guide you! What do you like?"

I had heard the same thing several times over the last couple of weeks in the city. I was simply fed up and asked: how many wines do you have, since they are too many to list?
"Oh, many, and lots by the glass," the waiter said.
"Sure, but if you guess, how many wines do you have in total, by the bottle?"
"Well, it's probably 60 reds and 60 whites."

120 wines. They could double that and still fit into our Short list category in our wine list competitions. If they had written a list, of course. Still, it's a lot more than just house red and white. Someone had cared enough to buy some wine. They just did not care enough to write them down.

The waiter asked what I liked and I said the first thing that came to mind: Jura. (Because honestly, if I had started telling him everything I liked, none of us would have been happy).

He brought a chenin blanc from South Africa. Decent, but it had very little to do with Jura styles or grapes. I asked if he could give me a few producer names from their selection since I was curious. He mentioned a few regions and grapes, but producers were harder.

Imagine going to a restaurant and hearing "We change the menu a lot so we have not written a new menu, but we have lots of different food, what do you like!?". You say, well, I would like some fish, perhaps salmon, or cod? And the waiter suggests chicken.

What makes it so acceptable to skip the wine lists? And it's not just in Gothenburg of course, even though this virus seems to be catching on there. I can understand if it is a caviste and there is a wall of wines to browse, but otherwise, what's the point?

It's not just that you let down the guests that are interested. You put your staff in a bad place too. Especially now that so much of the industry have to recruit from scratch. A wine list had been an enormous help to the waiter I met.

And for those of you who say you want to have a conversation with the guest. It's not like a wine list forbids a conversation. It can even be a conversation starter. And since sommeliers are not yet trained to read minds, it's impossible for you to know if my favorite wine of all time happens to be there.

At another place in Gothenburg, which actually had a list with bottles but not by the glass, the waiter suggested a juicy red from northern Rhone and a producer I had not heard of. That's fun, I thought and ordered a glass. When it came, it was a Côtes-du-Rhône (so southern Rhone) and a producer I've seen, but the pronounciation had made it hard to recognise.

If you run a venue and have good wines, don't hide them! I know you are extremely busy and the pandemic is barely over. But please take the time to make a list, it doesn't have to be up to date all the time. You'll get happier wine guests and higher tabs in returns.

Back at the first place. After dinner I happened to pass a wall where some of the wines were listed after all. It turned out they had two of my favourite producers.

PS Gothenburg, I still love you. Check out our updated Gothenburg guides through the links below.

PSS If you'd like to know how we include venues, check out our info here.

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