With every great restaurant menu comes a well-balanced wine list. While not every customer is a wine connoisseur, many will know to appreciate a drink list that has had time and effort put into its curation.
In this guide, we’ve broken down the most common wine types, their flavour profiles and of course, what to pair them with on your menu!
Most Popular Wine Types
At the very least, your restaurant’s wine list should include a few classic red and white wine varieties. Let’s look at the most common varieties you should include on your restaurant wine list:
Red wines are generally made from darker red or black grapes, with skins remaining on the grapes during fermentation.
- Cabernet Sauvignon – As a smooth full-bodied red wine, cabernet sauvignon is the popular wine variety with hints of blackcurrant, black cherry or other dark fruit.
Best paired with: grilled or roasted red meats (e.g. beef, lamb), hard cheeses, starches
- Merlot – While similar to cabernet sauvignon, merlot is more medium-bodied and sweeter. You’ll taste the notes of rich red fruit above all else.
Best paired with: most foods including chicken, pork, dark meats, nuts and tomatoes
- Pinot Noir – Being a soft and fruity wine, you’re bound to taste notes like cherries, strawberries with a hint of spice. It’s one of the lightest reds available.
Best paired with: chicken, pork, veal, duck or cured meats
- Shiraz – An Australian favourite, this medium to full-bodied wine is rich, dry and packed with the flavours of dark fruit and a pinch of spice.
Best paired with: grilled or roasted red meats, stews, hard cheeses
White wines are mainly made using green grapes. However, the skins on the grapes are typically separated from the juice before the fermentation process.
- Chardonnay – This dry white wine combines tart and sweet flavours, making it one of the most versatile white wine varieties. Depending on the style, you can taste summery fruits like apple, citrus and mango.
Best paired with: shellfish (e.g. lobster, crab), chicken, pork, soft cheeses, cream sauces, starches
- Sauvignon Blanc – Fruity and off-dry, this light to medium-bodied wine will have you tasting citrus as the dominant flavour. You may also find notes of lime, kiwi, grapefruit or passionfruit.
Best paired with: fish, shellfish (e.g. oysters, clams), green vegetables, soft cheeses (e.g. goat cheese)
- Pinot Grigio – Another light to medium-bodied wine, pinot grigio is similar to sauvignon blanc but is slightly sweeter and more floral. Here, you’ll taste lighter fruits like peach and citrus.
Best paired with: fish, shellfish, green vegetables
- Riesling – A more light-bodied wine, riesling ranges from off-dry to sweet while incorporating the flavours of green apple and lime.
Best paired with: spicy foods, chicken, duck, pork, fish, cured meats, sweets
Though with customers expanding their palates, sparkling wines and rosé have become increasingly popular in restaurants, too.
Sparkling wines can be produced from nearly any grape variety. What ultimately differentiates sparkling wine from wine is its bubbles. In fact, it’s the dissolved carbon dioxide in these wines that make them fizzy.
- Champagne – This regional wine gets its name from the Champagne region of France, where it is produced.
Best paired with: steak, oysters, oily foods (e.g. fried chicken), fried potatoes, snack foods
- Prosecco – This type of wine originates from Veneto in Northern Italy, and is the country’s most well-known sparkling wine. It is usually sweeter than champagne.
Best paired with: seafood, cured meats, savoury cheeses, fruits
Like a red rosé is made from the same grapes. However, because it undergoes less time in the fermentation process, it doesn’t take on nearly as much colour from the grape skins. Instead, rosé carries more of a pink hue, lighter flavour and fruity aroma.
Best paired with: fish, white meat, cured meats, soft and hard cheeses, vegetables, starches
7 Tips For Creating Your Wine List
With all this knowledge in mind, you might be wondering exactly how to engineer your wine list. Here are our go-to tips for designing a wine list that resonates and reads well with your customers:
- Tailor your wine to your restaurant’s menu. If you serve barbecued meats and steaks, opt for full-bodied red wines. Alternatively, if you’re serving up more seafood and shellfish dishes, delicate white wines will work better in your favour.
- Arrange your list by category, rather than price – whether it’s dry to sweet, or by geographical origins.
- Provide wine details like the name of the wine, vintage date, country of origin, body and price per glass or bottle.
- Suggest the best food pairings with your restaurant’s menu items. Don’t be shy, customers would love to know!
- Include concise descriptions if possible. For example, aim for a five-word description.
- Base your drink list on your seasonal menus and rotate them when necessary, This will undoubtedly add extra interest to your restaurant.
- Ensure a variety of wines are on offer to appeal to all tastes and price points.
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