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Fiona Sims guest wine critic blog

Published:  28 April, 2009

I've lost count of the number of bad wine lists I've come across.

I've lost count of the number of bad wine lists I've come across.

With the worst culprits you're lucky to get a country, let alone a region, producer or grape variety declared on the list. And vintages? You'll be lucky. Often they're completely wrong, with restaurants under the mistaken belief that one vintage tastes pretty much like another. And don't get me started on the spelling mistakes.

And what's with the wine compendiums? Or Big Dick Wine Lists, as I like to call them. A roll call of the biggest names, they are stuffed with pricey top drawer Bordeaux and Burgundy, completely lacking in depth, and chosen without a single thought for the food, and where you need to pay at least £30 for anything vaguely drinkable. Hello, there's a recession going on.

Far more important are a good range of prices and a wine style to suit everyone, inspiring customers to be adventurous, while at the same time being comforting and reassuring. Some key growers and producers along with some good years do the latter, while the former is achieved through time and effort.

And why do so many wine list layouts fail? If it's confusing to read, with no hint as to the style of the wines, people will go for the cheaper, safer options every time.

I like a list written by style - though it should always be adapted to the style of business, taking into consideration location and food. It's easy for the customer and it's easier for the sommelier to find their way around.
And where's the fun? The customer loves to be shown something a bit different. The wine list should invite us to explore every part of it; otherwise customers will go for the default choice - Pinot Grigio et al - every time.

Fiona Sims is a freelance drinks writer who writes for business, consumer and national press including The Times and Caterer & Hotelkeeper