PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT HERRIG
F
irst, the obvious: wine-by-the-glass programs have
come a long way since the days of house white and
house red. On a more subtle level, however, it has
become clear that by paying more attention to their
glass pours—effectively treating them like a miniatur-
ized list—savvy restaurants are able to literally bring more
wine to the table, pleasing more diners in more ways.
More emphasis on this sub-list, so to speak, can bring
new challenges, especially in terms of waste and freshness.
But in these tricky economic times, the opportunity for
greater profitability can not be overlooked, and by enhanc-
ing its glass program a restaurant can elevate its wine pro-
file without significantly expanding inventory.
In speaking with wine directors at a diverse selec-
tion of restaurants, it is obvious that a good “micro list”
can be a fresh, vibrant profit center, and not just by as-
piring to raid the wallet of the guest who doesn’t want
to spring for a bottle.
STRENGTH BY THE GLASS
“First and foremost, the by-the-glass list should represent
a snapshot of the list as a whole,” says Joe Campanale,
owner of several Manhattan restaurants including An-
fora, L’Artusi and L’Apicio. “It should complement the
cuisine, offer a variety and range of styles, offer a range of
price points, and it should have a story to tell that differ-
entiates it from other by-the-glass lists.” Complementing
cuisine goes beyond pairing well to knowing how your
guests eat, explains Campanale: “I look for wines that
will pair broadly, as at our places guests will order several
dishes at the same time and share them.”
Devising a functional list is not always straightfor-
ward. You’d think Dana Farner, wine director at Wolf-
gang Puck’s steakhouse CUT in Los Angeles, would have
her hands full with glasses of big reds, but it’s the whites
that keep her hustling, as tables most often go with a bot-
tle of red with their mains, but start with glasses of white.
She’s also not afraid to double-down on certain varietals,
with two Rieslings on offer (dry and lightly sweet) and
three Chardonnays. “We offer a white Burgundy, ideally
a Puligny-Montrachet, and two California Chardonnays,
one at the high-end…toasty oak and buttery, delicious
with lobster,” says Farner. “The rest of the table may want
Napa Cab, but we have something at that level for the
person who wants a white. Then we have something at
the opposite range of California style.”
Emily Wines, senior director of beverage for the Kimp-
ton hotel group, agrees that while she would select dif-
ferent wines for an Asian concept than for a Southwest
menu, “I don’t think about specific pairings. I aim for a
selection of wines that are food-friendly. Good wine with
great acidity works with a lot of food.”
THE
SHORTLIST
Profitability and expanded options have made
by-the-glass programs more vital than ever
BY JIM CLARKE
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