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What makes a wine list? Shaun Corrigan, Pied-à-Terre

Published:  22 May, 2023

In the first of a new online series, Harpers is going back to basics with members of hospitality to find out exactly what is the secret sauce that makes a modern wine list successful.

We kick off our series with Shaun Corrigan, consultant wine manager at London fine-dining favourite, the Michelin-starred Pied-à-Terre

1. In your opinion, what are the three main things which make a good wine list in 2023?

  • Wines by the Glass. For me, this is always a window to the wine list: if a restaurant takes their wines by the glass program seriously, I know the wine program is serious!
  • Presentation. Is the list easy to read? An index is always a good place to start. Whether it’s a physical list or on an iPad (as we have at Pied-à-Terre), there should be no grammatical or spelling mistakes. There is no excuse for it nowadays.
  • Keep the wine list updated. If a bin is exhausted, delist it, as you would a new wine to put on. This also means updating the website regularly. Nothing worse than researching a restaurant’s wine list to arrive and find out its completely different!

2. Wine lists are essentially the supermarket aisles of a restaurant. In your opinion, what is the best way to approach organisation and design? How do diners ‘browse’? Are there any elements of psychology which should be considered and how should lists facilitate that?

I like to introduce the wine list with an index, so if guests wish to go directly to a region, they don’t have to scroll every page. I also encourage guests to ask the sommelier team for their advice. Regardless of whether they understand the presentation or selection, it’s always a good idea to ask advice in order to find out which wine might best suit their tastes. Pricing also plays a part in any selection. So, I place the expensive wines at the top, rather than the bottom, so it’s easier to navigate.

3. What are the ‘must include’ categories or sections and what are optional? Must certain categories or styles go in certain places?

The list must include styles of wines: sparkling, white, rosé, red, dessert or fortified. Other options may be wines by the glass or weekly/monthly specials. Although I’ve never really understood ‘sommelier recommended wines’, because every wine on my list I personally recommend.

4. How have wine lists changed over the past few years, particularly with regard to Covid?

During Covid, many wine lists shrank due to cost concerns and storage, but now things are getting back to some form of normality, lists are getting back to what they once were. For me, it’s about choice over a range of prices and styles. If there aren’t the exact wines you were looking for, there is always a sensible alternative at the same price range (albeit for a different region).