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What makes a wine list? Oliver Kaviani, JÖRO

Published:  02 June, 2023

In our 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 continue with Oliver Kaviani, restaurant manager, JÖRO.

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

  • Value for money.
  • Educated choices. For instance, instead of picking a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc just because it’s expected, we should be responsible for selecting wines that fit our food, ethos and atmosphere. I’d suggest it’s laziness at times!
  • Diverse region selection. Let’s introduce our guests to something new. If we won’t, who will?

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?

I think that wine lists in order of price are underrated, especially with consumers being more money conscious, considering the current climate. The key with that approach is finding value for money wines that deliver on taste, ethos and GP.

With our list at JÖRO, we use a symbol key to highlight our wines natural credentials so sustainable savvy guests can make educated decisions quickly. The average consumer is more knowledgeable than ever, so transparency combined with stress-free browsing is our approach. If guests decide to make decisions without our team’s advice, we list tasting notes for each wine to give the guest a relatively good idea of what to expect. We also have our own label range of wines and drinks which sit in the mid-range and are by far our bestselling wines.

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

This may be controversial, but an obvious ‘must include’ category would now include low & no wines or wine alternatives. It’s amazing the number of guests who are now seeking out quality low & no options and we’ve spent a lot of time at JÖRO, exploring the best in this category and even developing our low & no abv pairings to complement our food.

Admittedly, there are still some terrible ones out there. But with the rapid advance of technology, helped by the increase in thirst for the category, there are now some absolutely mega low & no wines available. We find the best approach with low & no options is to slot them in the wine list under the usual category (white, bubbles, etc). That way, everyone gets to see them.

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

I’ve noticed a lot of businesses have made their lists more concise, most likely due to a conscious effort against absurd stock holding. But also, it’s been great to see more bars and restaurants showcasing lesser-known grapes and regions, which in turn bring value for money to the end consumer.

Instead of high-end Champagne, there has been the rise of English sparkling wine listings. It’s now not unusual to see alternative fresh white wines, which now include central European varietals like the Romanian Fetească Albă or robust wines from Georgia. Wines on draft are now more common also, giving operators quick dispense with maximum space saved. I’m not against it!