At The Franklin, one of two Traverse City, Michigan, restaurants under the purview of Amanda Danielson, the list is organized by what she calls “palate parallels.” Fundamentally it’s if-you-like-that, try-this. For example, under the “If You Like Pinot Grigio” heading, you’ll find an Aligoté from Burgundy; under “If You Like Sauvignon Blanc” is a Pinot Blanc from Northern Michigan winery Left Foot Charley. Those who like Cabernet Sauvignon are encouraged to try a Cabernet Franc from Friuli, Italy. The goal isn’t just to get people out of a rut. Danielson uses her wine menus to make it easy for guests to discover something new, be that a varietal or a producer.
Beware the money trap
For Jake Lewis, Momofuku’s beverage director who oversees the wine lists for all of the Momofuku restaurants, how the wines are categorized on the menu changes by the market. In some markets customers want the list organized by price; in others, guests like them organized by grape. The larger lists, regardless of market, are typically navigated by grape and then by price.
But, when revamping a wine menu, sommeliers encourage taking care not to rely too heavily on organizing by dollar signs.
When the menu at one of Grenier’s restaurants was broken into price categories, he noticed higher-end sales tended to depress. A slight adjustment can resolve that. Put a $70 bottle at the bottom of a section and it won’t sell much, but bookend that $70 bottle with a $100 or a $120 bottle and suddenly it seems more affordable, according to Grenier.
Now, he also likes to put unique varieties and less familiar regions in the value-priced range, and slide the usual suspects—familiar grapes, regions, and producers—into the higher priced tiers.
“If your least expensive white is a Sauvignon Blanc, you’re never going to sell anything else,” Grenier says.
Chad Walsh, the former beverage director for New York’s Agern, was given the opportunity to revamp his wine menu when a flood closed the Grand Central restaurant for a few months in 2017.