Our new expert buying advice column turns the spotlight on wine and sherry as we ask our wine guru, restaurant consultant Peter McCombie MW, to step up to the plate and answer these couple of teasers. If you would like to ask Peter a question or offer your own advice then please do so at email@example.com.
Our wine guru, Peter McCombie MW, answers The Buyer’s questions.
I have just been promoted at the neighbourhood restaurant where I work and have been asked to update the wine list. I am bored with Pinot Grigio and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: do I need to keep them on the list?
You need to ask yourself “who is the wine list for?” The answer is of course, your customers.
Wines like these are popular with many consumers, so it makes sense to offer them what they want. Don’t forget they aren’t exposed to wine on a daily basis the way you are.
The truth is ordering wine in a restaurant can be stressful for many people. They like Pinot Grigio, Malbec and Sauvignon because these varieties have become like brands and are ‘safe’ to order. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is, however, important that you choose the best examples and offer the best value for money you can. You can still offer wines that you find more interesting or challenging, but mix them up with the familiar.
Your guests are more likely to try them or take your recommendations, if they have enjoyed good examples of familiar wines that you have chosen.
There is a lot of talk about sherry being a ‘thing’ these days. There seem to be lots of different styles and I’m not sure if I should list some and if I do where I should start.
Sherry is indeed a ‘thing’ but maybe not as much as you might think. The diversity is part of the fun, but as you suggest it is hard to know where to start.
There’s still a huge market for sweeter cream styles, but this is mostly not what the buzz is about. It is about dry and very dry styles. These can be divided into two types: the so-called biologically aged and the oxidised.
The former include Fino and Manzanilla – which have an amazing salty tangy and are normally bone dry and challenging for novices – and Amontillados which are aged versions of Finos.
The oxidised style is called Oloroso; most are dry but darker in colour and richer in flavour and texture.
Most people aren’t going to buy a bottle so you need to offer them all by the glass and make sure your staff are trained so that they can sell the wines quickly enough to maintain freshness.
Don’t offer too many. Start customers off with Manzanilla, the lightest style, then they could try a Fino and move on perhaps to an Amontillado.
People mostly drink them as an aperitif and as it happens they work really well with salty snacks.
- Do you agree? If you would like to share your your advice then please do so below or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do have a question for Peter? A query about buying wine or drinks from your list? Then please send them through to email@example.com.