Crappy wine lists

Eric Asimov doesn’t like the

wine list at Cafe du Soleil:

It’s not that the wine list is too small. It offers several dozen bottles

– mostly French but some Italian, American and Spanish, too –

befitting the size of this small bistro.

But the list shows both a complete lack of imagination, and total indifference

to wine. It’s as if the restaurant abdicated responsibility for the

list and allowed the first wine salesman in the door to put it together from

the dreariest of his selections. Almost every last bottle is from a mediocre

producer from a predictable region who is simply churning out product. It’s

a complete bore, and it’s enough to keep me from going back.

Now Eric Asimov writes about wine for a living, so he’s in the tiny minority

of people who knows a mediocre producer when he sees one. He’s like the gin

rummy player who not only remembers everything his opponent picked up, but also

remembers everything his opponent discarded.

Most of us, however, find it hard enough to remember good producers, let alone

try to remember wines which turned out to be mediocre.

So, Mr Asimov (or anybody else): Is there any way that a non-professional can

recognise a bad wine list? It seems unfair to extrapolate from one bottle: if

you’re disappointed once, that doesn’t mean the entire list is weak. So when

and how does one come to the conclusion that the list is bad enough to keep

one from going back?

In my case, this has only happened at Alias, on Clinton Street, and only because

that restaurant is so excited about its wines. It has lots of them by the glass,

and everybody there seems extremely enthusiastic about them. So if you go with

a group of people a couple of times and order wine by the glass rather than

the bottle, it’s relatively easy to get through most of the list. And come to

the conclusion that none of it is particularly great.

But if a restaurant doesn’t push its wines like that, and just has a list of

a few dozen bottles which aren’t available by the glass, are there any telltale

signs of mediocrity?

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One Response to Crappy wine lists

  1. James Gabler says:

    I think Eric Asimov put his finger on what highlights a crappy wine list, i.e., it looks like it was put together by the first wine salesman through the door. In other words, it lacks any recognizable wines. Many wines over the years have earned good reputations by consistently producing good wines. Examples, Sonoma-Cutrer for chardonnay, Ridge for zinfandel, Louis Latour, Louis Jadot, Kendall Jackson, etc. The list doesn’t have to include my favorites but a list that totally ignores wines with good reputations would do better if it gave us a choice of Lancers, Almadin, Mateus, or Blue Nun.
    From another perspective I would include in the crappy wine list category lists that charge exorbitant prices, i.e., charges of 300% and more above the retail price–that’s really crappy!

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