When it comes to wine, operators should dare to be different

By Guy Chatfield

IN the throes of doing the day job a couple of weeks ago, something tickled me – metaphorically speaking, that is!

I was working with colleagues in Edinburgh and Glasgow and had the chance to look at the wine lists of a number of the cities’ restaurants. What filled my little heart with joy was the sight – a delightfully surprising sight, I may add – of some really exciting wines.
These wines were not exciting because they were from the latest svengali winemaker or an experimental white wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon; what thrilled me was that they were from places in the wine world that you would never normally see represented on a list.
In fairness, they were all restaurants of some note; but, nevertheless, the establishments were really trying hard to seek out interesting wines from wine producing nations. There were wines from as far afield as Romania and Brazil, with a couple of the lists even sporting bottles from Morocco and Thailand.
I thought it was great, not only that they were listing these wines, but the fact that the patrons of the restaurants intimated that these wines were not just esoteric fluff, they were paying their way! The fact that these hard working restaurateurs are prepared to give these wines space and that the punters are buying them is a fantastic sign!
As Bill Hicks, one of my favourite ever comics, once said: “We are the facilitators of our own creative revolution”. It is in our gift to try something new; nobody is forcing you (but I am definitely encouraging you!). I find it mightily boring to keep plugging away at the same old wines every time I go out and despair when I see other folk doing exactly that.
In reality it can actually be more evolution than revolution, in that to make your list a wee bit more interesting, you don’t have to go all crazy and list a Greek Malagousia or a Croatian Plavac Mali. Grape varietals like Albarino and Gruner Veltliner are pretty common on most merchants’ lists now, meaning that there is a greater understanding and acceptance in the trade. If you start to culture an interesting list by challenging your supplier to bring these delicious things to you to taste, your customers will definitely respond. In my humble opinion, a negative response is one hundred times better than an ambivalent one as at least it means the person is interested and engaged with you.
It also gives you the opportunity to try something else new!

Cork Dork film recommendation: Mondovino (2004), A fantastic documentary on the impact of globalisation on the world’s different wine regions.