I have always maintained that a small wine list is optimal --from my time spent in California, where I literally had the Western wine world at my fingertips, to my experience as Sous Chef at Watershed, here in Decatur where I was blessed with both a retail list as well as a dining room wine list. I have had the good fortune to work in restaurants with arguably mass scaled lists and restaurants where securing placement on a tiny list was a feat indeed. At Cakes & Ale, I typically run a list of 40 – 48 bottles.
A few of the top line reasons why I keep the list small:
Inventory turnover is important to ensuring that pricing remains consistent and that the list itself is flexible. Excessive or hard-to-move inventory takes up valuable space. Storage space is at a premium in a restaurant of our size and therefore every bottle must count – we price our wine to be value-oriented and approachable. The flexibility of a smaller list allows for less risk in terms of our shelf space therefore we are able to continually offer bottles that are original, exciting and new.
Staff is knowledgeable.
This one is obvious but with a small list, the staff has the ability to fully experience the wine and provide more knowledgeable pairings. It affords a more value-added conversation between guests and servers who know the list well and are able to provide accurate guidance based on intense knowledge of every selection offered. I strive to provide a list that is both utilitarian as well as well-balanced.