The Cyrano Wine Column - Restaurant Wine Lists (a primer) Part 2

October 26, 2023

I would like to just check off a few wine list missteps that, for me, are an automatic sign that I should bring my own bottle of wine or drink beer and one big caveat to the dessert wine drinker.

Leather bound lists with any sort of representation of grapes or wine bottles on the cover.

I believe this is self-explanatory.

Wine lists with no vintage dates

Unfortunately, this is more prevalent than one would think. I understand that vintages change quickly and sometimes you are caught out with the wrong vintage listed but avoiding them altogether is not the solution. In this day and age of computers and printers, reprinting a small list to change vintages is not all that difficult. And if the restaurant has the list printed for them by one of their distributors then the problem is exponentially worse, as they are saddled with product more beneficial to the distributor than the consumer.

Wine lists with a preponderance on wines readily available in supermarkets

I covered this last time but it bears repeating. If you are going out to have an experience you cannot easily replicate at home why would you want a wine that you could get at the local A and P?

Unimaginative by the glass options (see above)

Give me something interesting, not six wines that all taste alike. And choose wines that go with the food. I don’t need it to be cutting edge, but at least make it look like you are trying to entertain me. I don’t want a glass of Cabernet with my spicy Thai food.

Vintage Port by the glass

I may be going out on a limb here but I truly believe no restaurant should offer vintage Port by the glass unless they are willing to pour out what they have not sold after the bottle has been opened for 2 days. Port ages in the bottle, which makes the positive flavors very reliant on the primary fruit flavors. With introduction to air this fruit note diminishes quickly and if you are paying 24 to 30 dollars for a glass of Port that has been opened for 3 days (or who knows how many months) you are simply not getting the correct experience. A much better option is Madeira, which unlike Port, does not deteriorate after opening.


These guidelines may seem a bit arbitrary and Draconian, but they have served me well all these years.

Next – what to do if you decide to bring your own bottle.

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