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How to put together a wine list

Published:  11 August, 2016

The wine list is an important part of any on-trade offering.

Getting it right can be the difference between repeat business and dwindling visitor numbers, so making sure you have something that is varied, well-positioned and updatable should be a priority for anyone serious about selling great wines.

We spoke to some of the nation's top wholesalers who gave us these tips to steer you on your way. 

1. Use it as your calling card

Your wine list is another chance to show off the personality of the restaurant, bar or pub. Make your wine list speak volumes about you as not just as a venue, but as a bona fide drinking destination. Don't be afraid to stand out from the crowd or do the opposite to what others are doing. 

2. Make it easy to update 

Wine lists shouldn't be carved in stone, so make it disposable and cheap to make so that it can change readily. A wine list that evolves and changes with the seasons will bring customers wanting more.

3. Go for a wild card

Ask yourself, what would I like to see on a wine list? Is there anything on there that stands out? Wine lists benefit from having that one unusual wine which draws the eye and generates a taste for discovery.

4. Do your research

Getting to know your customers likes and dislikes is great, but crunching the numbers and doing some quantitative research can really pay in terms of finding out who buys what and why. Analysing sales data to find out what your customers are buying and how much they are spending will help to inform your choices.

5. Variety is the spice of life

Diversify your offering so that it covers different styles, price points and make sure you have some grapes outside of the most well-known varietals. Also, don't make Pinot Grigio your cheapest wine.

6. Make sure your team is behind it

Staff need to be able to discuss and sell the wines on your list with confidence. If staff members have expertise in a certain area, use it to the business' advantage. But even if they're not experts on a certain grape or appellation, staff need to be able to engage with customers and enhance their enjoyment throughout the decision making process and drinking experience.

7. Consider your customer profile

Making sure there are great food and wine pairing opportunities on the menu is a no brainer, but putting together a good wine list also means looking at your customer profile as well. Find out who your customers are and match according to style and price.

8. Write meaningful descriptions

Help customers by writing a description that helps them decide what to choose rather than just basics.