Should we mention our little worries and insecurities, when the wine list comes into view?
The very look of it already grabs our attention. Too slender, we start to worry we won’t find that nice little red number from the Loire or that dry steely white, a salty taste bud explosion that will go so well with the dish we spent ages choosing. Too weighty, perhaps even in studded medieval leather, we get the impression it can only deliver expensive names, difficult to swallow served at a haphazard temperature.
Let’s open it. What a performance! A slapdash layout hits us in the eye from first to last page. Hastily done turning badly amateurish and rather on the pompous side. Its shabbiness oozes lack of charm gathering its vague, abbreviated and inadequate comments together into a jarring piece of music, initialed by unreadable yet overconfident crossings-out.
So, having hardly opened it, we drop the wine list back on the table. It’s like it was shaped by boredom, cast off with frustration, hatched in disgust... it says nothing to us.
"I’m in your hands", we tell the sommelier. No contest; they’ve won, but lost on the satisfaction front.
A wine list should read like a sommelier’s crime scene investigation carried out in some make-belief land with a historical novel backdrop.
We like wine lists to be a bit like life: logical yet illogical. Logical in their relationship with local produce and vineyards, in the way somebody has thought through how to draw the threads together with the chef’s everyday creations. Illogical with that impulsive whim leaving the author of such a carefully selected cellar flabbergasted; enthusiasm that sweeps us away and is a model of humanity.
A wine list should convey leaves rustling in the sun, creaking vines fixed inert in gravelly soil, tremor of fine bubbles beneath the chalky earth, or like Rhône valley truffle dust.
And a sense of order is restored when meticulous service - essential when serving wine and the customer – encourages the wine list’s sheer poetry to be open to the four winds.