If you took away the icons and name of the restaurant on a wine list at a fine dining establishment in NYC today, would you know which wine list belonged to which restaurant? A majority of them focus on the same producers and have a strangely similar format. They are ‘classical’ in nature.
Every day, cuisines are being redefined and reimagined. The shape and journey of a meal or dish is considered and often turned on its head. Chef’s Table is definitely a “thing.”
Strangely, the art of the wine list has lagged far behind. Why? A wine list can define an experience: It says something very clear about the restaurant.
I believe it to be a remnant of the old guard, traditionalist wine mentality. A tastevin shadow that looms over the fine dining scene that only works for a very select few and locks up the dining patrons by handing them a one page personalized tasting menu. And with that, a heavy bible of wines to wade through.
Question: look at a list and tell me if you really believe that those long verticals mean something, or most of all, that all the wines are truly drinking. I doubt it. Some (or in many cases most..) of the wines on that vertical list are tomatoes out of season.
“ If you have room to list it, certainly you have room not to list it.
The tradition of the vertical is about scale and bigger is certainly not always better. Are we honoring the producer by breadth alone? This can’t be the path. In fact, I think smaller, agile wine lists today (as a general rule) function better as a whole.
Who has the guts to challenge this old tradition?
Prediction: Long before we have virtual reality wine lists that appear before our eyes, or even further, when iPad wine lists actually catch on it there will be a rebel that speaks out. A restaurant will challenge the traditional fine dining wine list format in a strong and notable way.