Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wine Lists

For the last few years I have been asked to judge the annual Hospitality Awards Outstanding Wine List award and this year’s task was the most difficult to date.

It has always been challenging comparing wine lists from café/bars with those from formal style restaurants but this year the step up in wines being offered was significant.

When deciding the best wine list I considered a number of criteria with an over-riding consideration for balance. By balance I mean does the list have something for everyone and does it reflect the focus of the establishment. For example I don’t expect a bar to offer the same high value wine I would expect to see on a fine dining style restaurant list but I do expect them to offer wines that reflect the style of food they serve, the price point their customers expect to pay and have a selection of Nelson, New Zealand and international wines.

Just because these establishments are in Nelson it doesn’t mean they should have only Nelson wines on their lists. I think they should have a good representation of Nelson wine but when I go out I also like to drink wine from other regions in New Zealand and I like to try wines from overseas. For example Nelson is not really suited to making full bodied red wines so there should be a choice from Hawke’s Bay or Australia to pair with a rich steak.

In recent years wine marketing companies have been putting a lot of effort into helping the industry offer you, the consumer, better choices and the owners have been investing in more and higher quality stock holdings. This raises another issue faced by the industry, consumer reluctance to pay reasonable money for wines they serve.

I can understand people thinking ‘why should I pay x when I can buy it for y in the supermarket?’ The answer is simply that the establishment has to invest in the stock and have it sitting on the shelf so you can have choices, they need to provide and clean glassware, replace glassware broken by customers, have trained and licensed staff (who they need to pay more to), meet liquor licensing requirements and finally they are a business that needs to make a profit.

The wine lists I judged this year showed that owners are prepared to invest in good product so you can have choices when buying wine in a bar, a café or a restaurant. They are also putting a lot of effort into helping you make good wine buying decisions with many establishments now including a description of the wine so you know whether it is sweet, dry, full bodied or rich and fruity. Some are also making wine match suggestions on their menus so when you are deciding what to eat you can choose a wine the chef thinks will go well with the dish.

When you are dining at one of our fantastic hospitality venues have a closer look at the wine list, you just might be surprised at the well considered selection you have to choose from.

By the way this year’s winner was Hopgood’s Restaurant and Bar.

I have been drinking

Chateau Marguerite Fronton 2007 - $24.95 from Mediterranean Foods

From the South West area of France this is a delightfully rich wine. With plums, prunes, black berry fruit flavours, firm but balanced tannins and a long satisfying finish this is a cracker.

Petaluma 2008 Hanlin Hill Riesling - $28

I bought my bottle of this from Liquor King in Christchurch but it is worth searching for if riesling is your thing. From the Clare Valley in Australia this is a rich, powerful dry wine. Packed with ripe citrus and mineral characters and has a nice oily texture. Great now and perfect for the cellar.

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