Designing a wine by the glass list does not have to be rocket science and it does not need to be frustrating. Here is a straightforward formula and a few tips to make sure you cover all the bases.
The Formula for a good by the glass list
50% or more of the wine list should accessible, meaning the average consumer will read the name of the wine and have a general sense of what to expect. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, etc. These selections should cover all price spectrums, but better restaurants can and should have these wines toward the top of the price and quality spectrum. In other words, of course you should have a Chardonnay BTG, but make it a damn good Chardonnay worth the heavier price tag. Within this category of ‘accessible’ every restaurant should have an answer to the “what do you have that is sweet?” question.
25% of the list should be geographically focused and/or neat blends. This is where you can push the customer and the staff a bit. Having things like a Cotes du Rhone, Rioja, a dry wine from Portugal, and cool blends from California make the servers have to know what they are talking about. Nothing too complicated, but wines just a wee bit out of the box for the average drinker.
The remaining 25% can be geeky, odd, unknown, and wonderfully strange but should skew to the more affordable end of the spectrum. Make your oddities and geek wines the most affordable ones on the list and you will be able to introduce them to more people. If you have customers that leave after the meal not only satisfied but educated about something new and affordable then you have an ambassador that will brag to their friends about their experience (the ultimate advertising).
The last part of the formula is this: on both the white and red side, aim for 1/3 each light, medium, and full bodied wines. Oh, and don’t forget to have a rosé or two of course.
Presto! Instant wine list. This doesn’t have to be rocket science and it definitely doesn’t need to be stressful.