What is a Wine List?

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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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A wine list is a list of wines written on a bill of fare. Wine lists are presented and offered like menus and usually in conjunction with them. While in some restaurants, a wine list is included on the restaurant's main menu, wine lists can also be offered on separate menus.

Wine lists are meant to provide a customer with a selection of wines from which to choose for purchase. Besides informing customers of what types of wines the restaurant offers, wine lists can also help a customer select a wine based on personal preference. Prior wine knowledge will help the average customer select a wine out of the many that are listed on the menu, but extensive knowledge is not required to select a suitable wine for a single person, a large party or a specific occasion.

When someone looks at the typical wine list, he may first notice that the wine list is organized into sections. Many restaurants separate the wine selection into two general sections: white wine and red wine. However, some restaurants may add additional categories such as rosé wines and dessert wines. It is also not uncommon to come across a wine list that is categorized by grape type, wine style, variety, region, country or specialty. Regardless of the way that a restaurant chooses to categorize its wines, they are usually presented from lightest wine down to heaviest wine.


A sommelier, or a highly trained wine waiter, will often provide a wine list to patrons. Sommeliers may aid customers by answering questions about the wines available for purchase or even offer suggestions. They may also be charged with composing wine lists and informing other restaurant staff members about wines.

Wine lists will include wine prices. These prices will reflect the cost of wine per glass or bottle. However, some restaurants do allow customers to bring their own wines to the table, provided that they pay what a restaurant will deem a corkage fee. This fee is meant to recoup any losses that that the restaurant might have incurred, since the customer declined to the order from the wine list.

In addition to being offered at restaurants, a wine list can be presented at wineries and wine stores. These lists can be employed during wine testing events, where those in attendance may select a wine from the list to taste. Tasters may also use the lists to learn more about the wines that they are imbibing. Some wine lists will include information about wine producers, the years in which they were made, best food pairings and other miscellaneous facts.


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Post 3

I never drink white so I always ask for the red wine list. My girlfriend rarely drinks red so she is always asking for a white wine list. We both love wine and yet we hardly ever share a bottle. I wonder what that says about our relationship?

Post 2

@chivebasil - I can appreciate where you are coming from but personally I like the epic wine list. I like choices in general and I do not want to be limited by the tastes of the chef. I came to that restaurant to satisfy my own appetites and I want to be able to get any wine that suits me.

I also like to see the great variety. I have discovered some amazing wines, wines I would have never found in a store, by being adventurous with my choices off the wine list.

Post 1

I have been to a few restaurant where the wine list was like a novella. It was hard backed and went on for pages and pages.

I appreciate having choices but I also appreciate the curatorial aspect of a wine list. The goal is not to give you every wine under the sun but only the choices that the chef and restaurant owner believe are the best to be paired with the food. More than 15 or 20 different choices and it just becomes overwhelming.

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