We’ve all been there. You arrive in a foreign city for the first time on business and you are looking for somewhere to go for a drink and something good to eat. Ideally somewhere that has an interesting and good value wine list. But where do you start? Well, that’s where Star Wine List comes in. Devised by Krister Bengtsson it works with sommeliers and local wine trade experts to compile lists of the best places to go and enjoy wine in any particular city. Here he explains how it all works.
The Buyer has teamed up with the Star Wine List in a new partnership to share insights into what are the key wine trends in the most influential cities for wine around the world.
Tell us about Star Wine List. How did it start?
Star Wine List is the guide to great wine bars and wine restaurants. We started in Stockholm in 2017 and you can find Star Wine List on www.starwinelist.com and on ios and android as well. We recommend great wine bars and wine restaurants. We also feature the wine lists from many of the venues and allow you to search for a favourite wine and see where it is listed.
Why did you set it up?
My background is in wine and media and I have started a couple of companies in those industries. I started this one because there are so many restaurant guides in the world, but when you’re a wine lover, you basically ask your friends on Facebook where to go. We aim to fill that gap globally with our guide.
How do you put each of the lists together?
We work with wine professionals in every market, often top sommeliers, who give us their favourite addresses and describe what kind of venues they are. We do not charge for the website or app, and we do not charge venues for being listed.
What is the criteria you use to decide who goes into the list?
We have some criteria such as proper glasses, temperature control in cellars and knowledgeable staff. But the main criteria for our ambassadors is: When wine lovers come to your city, which are the venues you’d like to bring them to. It covers the range from small wine bars, even with no wine lists, to bistros and fine dining. From natural wine to conventional and classical.
So can restaurant and bars nominate themselves?
They can and we have quite a massive inbox from venues that want to be included. We evaluate them as soon as we can, with a visit, by ourselves or through our trusted network. A good wine list is not the only criteria for a great wine place, so we do not include a venue just on the basis of that.
Can you nominate yourself to be an ambassador to help put together the lists?
You can and if so, please include references from our existing team and network. We usually work with sommeliers and wine writers who have a great network in their city. We usually do not work with people in wine imports and sales due to possible conflicts of interest.
How do you keep on top of updating the lists? Are they being regularly refreshed?
The selections in our countries are updated, yes – we update when new venues open and are included, and remove ones that close or change direction.
We also update the wine lists of the venues in our guide. You can see the date of the wine list when it was last updated.
Which cities have you done so far and why?
We are now live in over 20 major cities in 17 countries, and work hard to expand quickly with quality across the globe. I believe the service is already very good with the current number of cities, but it should be extremely useful when we have covered every town and wine region there is.
Which cities are next?
We are currently working on Lima, Mendoza, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Tallinn, Tbilisi, Alsace, Shanghai and a few more.
You also run your own wine awards – how do they work?
Yes, Star Wine List of the Year is our way of highlighting the top wine lists and the work behind them. We have an international sommelier jury that select the top wine lists in different categories such as best ‘By the glass list’ and ‘Best Austrian wine list’.
We have currently run it in the Nordics in cooperation with the local sommelier championships and it has been very well received. So we are working on expanding it to more markets this year.
What value do you find your lists have for producers looking to work in those cities and countries?
We are basically giving away a great tool to all wine industry participants, for free. Sommeliers use it to search to see which venues that list producers they are considering, and to get inspiration from other venues and cities. Importers use it to prepare sales. Producers use it to see where they are listed and learn about the markets.
We also work commercially with selected partners such as Libertas Vineyards & Estates and Austrian Wine on developing their presence in key markets as we have a very sharp audience of top sommeliers, media and wine lovers. All such activities are clearly marked as commercial on the site and and in the app, and in our events.
How else do you work with producers and suppliers or would like to in the future?
We will develop more options for producers and suppliers going forward, but the main objective is global growth of the core guide – so we will limit a bit our commercial offerings to a number of key partners for the time being.
You have a new app – what is that for and how does it work?
Yes, finally. We started out as a website only, due to search engines and to limit the development tracks. But people naturally kept asking for the app so now it’s live and it is the most important product for us going forward. It’s just so much more easier to use.
How do you make your money from Star Wine List?
Sponsored content and events. It’s free to use Star Wine List and it’s free to be listed as a venue. Where we have a commercial partnership, it’s marked as such.
What are your future plans for Star Wine Lists?
We keep going global and keep improving the guide for wine lovers.
What is your personal background and how did you got into wine?
I am a journalist who got into digital media management in the late 90’s and I have started a few companies along the way. I fell in love with wine while traveling in Australia a long time ago and it has been a part of my life and businesses for a long time. My taste may have changed during the years but I will always love a great Barossa Shiraz.
What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Email for sure: Krister@starwinelist.com. If you read this, please use the guide and let me know how we can improve it for you.