Wine Spectator magazine has done much to promote fine wine through the years, and one of its greatest contributions involves compiling an annual list of the world’s finest restaurant wine lists.
You can find links to its list of 3,700 award winners and 91 Grand Award winners for 2018 here.
Wine Spectator has its own criteria for selecting its honorees, including the number of wines offered and the depth of the selections. To qualify for its highest honor, the Grand Award, the “wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation. These restaurants offer the highest level of wine service.”
Details about the three award levels can be found here.
I pretty much agree with the Spectator’s criteria for its awards, although I also believe a restaurant can have a great wine list with far fewer than 90 selections. How? Here is my criteria:
- A nice mix of red wines, white wines, sparkling wines and rosé wines. It’s important to include several varieties in order to meet the expectations of as many diners as possible.
- Wines that pair nicely with the various entrees on the menu. And to make it easy for the diner, the restaurant should recommend a specific wine or two for each entrée on the menu, and better still, print those recommendations on the menu.
- Offer as many wines as possible by the glass. This may require an investment in a wine preservation system, but it provides a convenience for single diners.
- Offer wine flights. This gives diners an opportunity to try three or four different types of wine, and learn which ones they really enjoy with various types of food.
- Include one or two nice Port wines on the dessert menu. It’s a great way to conclude a meal.
I believe that wine is better with food, and that food is better with wine. That’s why I appreciate restaurants that invest the time and effort in developing a well-selected wine list — regardless of the size.
By the way, in addition to Wine Spectator’s annual rankings, The World of Fine Wine publishes an annual list of top restaurant wine lists, and it even includes a handy search-by-city feature. You can check that out here.