Sommeliers Series – Designing a Wine List | Secret Bottle

Sommeliers Series – Designing a Wine List

Enter any great restaurant and within minutes of being seated, your waiter will proudly give you two things, the list of food designed by the chef, and the list of wine designed by the sommelier.

The importance the wine list plays in your dining is often overlooked, as is the amount of time and knowledge that goes into creating a list.

We asked our team of international sommeliers to answer some questions to learn more about their beliefs in creating their restaurant's lists.


“Creating a wine list is an intricate task that requires the harmonious balance between location, food, clientele, seasonality, market and last but not least, your personal fingerprint as a sommelier. A process that must be enjoyed and cherished” explains Andres Aragon - 360 Bar and Dining (Sydney)

“The wine list is a reflection of the personality of the sommelier and the restaurant concept” explains Andrew Cullen Master Sommelier (Dubai)


“A wine list should contain a broad spectrum of products to cover all tastes, ideally cover a good range of price points to accommodate all budgets. The focus of the list should be tuned to the (usual) customer base.” Chris Ihm - Steel Bar and Grill (Sydney)

Both Andy Cullen and Mikee Collins - Nola Smokehouse (Sydney) believing in having a strong and plentiful selection of “wine by the glass”.


“I don't try to avoid any particular regions, but I will put a certain focus on certain regions I feel passionate about.” Says Zack Musick - Merimans (Hawaii)

Emmanuel Benardo - Unlisted Collection (Singapore) is right on the money “I don't avoid anything! All booze is great and all have a time and place!”. And Andy Cullen adds “I'm not a fan of overly commercial wines that don’t have a varietal or regional character”.


This was an interesting question with the closest margin being Chris at Steel Bar and Grill and Mikee at Nola who were basically 50 / 50, Andrew Cameron at and Emmanuel Bernardos in Singapore both at 40% white and 60% red, where as Zack Musick at Merrimans in Hawaii is closer to 30% white and 70% red wine.


Andrew Cullen explained, “only new world wine should be done by varietal, old world should be by region”. Listing categories are also becoming less strict and traditional, “my lists are categorised by texture and weight, so varietals are less intimidating for guests to explore. For example in whites is list Fresh & Bright Textural, Oxidative and On Skins Silky, and Soft & Rounded” explains Andrew Cameron - Burnt Ends (Singapore).


Sommeliers all agreed on a foundation of the classics with a changing selection of up and coming. The most common white varietal was (thankfully) clearly Chardonnay.

Here is Andres Aragon’s exact breakdown example

70% classic varietals in a variety of styles and interpretation within same variety/pricing

  • 3 Chardonnays
  • 3 Sauvignon Blancs
  • 3 Rieslings
  • 3 Pinot Gris/Grigio
  • 1 Semillon
  • 1 Gewürstraminer

30% up and coming varietals and styles that would constantly change

  • 1 Gruner Veltliner
  • 1 Viognier
  • 1 Chenin Blanc
  • 1 Roussanne
  • 1 Albarino
  • 1 Vermentino


Once again, the sommeliers gave very detailed lists with old and new world wines popping up from across the globe. Pinot and Cabernet clearly the most popular, but it was great to see a wide mix as seen here by Zacks list

  • 6 Pinot Noir (California, Oregon, Burgundy)
  • 6 Cabernet (California, Bordeaux)
  • 2 Syrah (Northern Rhone South Australia)
  • 1 Grenache (Southern Rhone)
  • 1 Merlot (Bordeaux)
  • 1 Malbec (Mendoza)
  • 1 Tempranillo (Rioja)
  • 1 Nebbiolo (Piedmont Barolo)
  • 1 Sangiovese (Montalcino)

Next time you get handed 'the list' take a minute to understand the philosophy behind it, and the regions and varietals included. Have a chat to the sommelier ask for a suggestion, try going by the glass instead of by the bottle so you can something new, and have an old favourite.

 Originally posted by our friends at Alsaker

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