Ramblings and Rumblings

Restaurant Wine Lists


You probably know this better than anyone, and no doubt you know it better than just about everyone working in the restaurant industry: restaurant wine lists are completely out of date and pretty useless.


Here you are, reviewing a long list, probably many pages, of fermented adult beverages made from grape varietals, alongside winery names, vintages, points of origin, and prices. So what do you know now? Do you know the style of the wine, its weight on the palate, sugar levels, other grapes in the blend? When an American wine says Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is only required to be 75 percent of that grape varietal. What are the rest of the grapes in the mix, all of which can significantly change the style and taste?


The whole idea of a restaurant carrying many styles and grape varietals of wine is to pair with their food. But is that Santa Barbara Pinot Noir more elegant and a bit lighter than its counterpart from Russian River, or the pinot from Willamette in Oregon? Is that chardonnay bright and crisp, or is it buttery and oaked?


Formerly, when the wine world was much smaller, you knew, as an informed and experienced consumer, what a wine would be like when it noted where it originated on the label Haut Medoc or Nuits-St.George. The styles were consistent, and in Europe they still mostly are, with the grape and the region of origin.


Today, however, just about every classic grape is grown around the world on just about every continent. So how do you, an interested diner, know what you are getting?


And that’s why I am asking restaurateurs to please step forward and give us a few clues on your wine list as to what we can expect from those bottles of wine you purchased. Tell us that you think a particular wine has certain attributes that will pair well with certain of your dishes.


I don’t want to take $50 chances in hopes that the restaurant’s cuisine and the wine will play well together on my plate and in my glass.


Whiskey's Astounding Popularity


Did anyone see this coming? I don’t even think the people who make whiskey were prescient enough to foresee the rising popularity of their distilled product.


Impact magazine is a leading trade publication reporting on the spirits industry, published by M. Shanken Communications which also publishes Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado. Impact each year measures the rate at which products sell in the marketplace and then Impact’s staff develops a Hot Prospect listing of those products which are expanding their distribution and sales, and then are snapped up by consumers. The results are based on 2011 sales, but also considered were 2010 and 2009.


Seven whisky brands earned Hot Prospect honors, and only six vodka brands earned the same designation. This is the first time ever for this occurrence, whiskey sales as measured by these parameters outpacing vodka sales.


Also in the list were five liqueurs, three prepared cocktail brands, one rum and one gin.


Keep in mind that these are the brands that are growing fastest, with each label having to sell at least 50,000 cases but no more than 200,000. Those parameters make the list a place to watch sales trends as well as identify hot new brands.


The whisk(e)ys singled out were: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Pendleton Canadian, Bulleit Bourbon, Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch, The Balvanie Single Malt Scotch, Devil’s Cut Bourbon, and Seagram’s 7 Dark Honey.


Vodkas were Rőkk, Ursus, Godiva, Pucker, Exclusiv, and Cupcake.


Liqueurs were Patrón Citronge, Patrón XO Café, Evan Williams Honey Reserve, St-Germain, and RumChata. Tequilas were Milagro, Lunazul, and Zarco. The Kraken scored well in the rum category, as did Hendrick’s for gin.


For the Love of Ice


We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating and it is so basic.


When you make cocktails at home for some of your friends, don’t just use the cubes from your ice bin in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, or even the ice from your standalone icemaker.


Those cubes are in no way pure enough for your brilliant cocktail concoction. You deserve better.


Go to the store, spend the $2, or so, and buy ice that has been produced by a commercial company. That bag of ice has been made to food quality standards. It is purer than the ice that comes from your freezer compartment, which has been made from water that has flowed through the pipes of a municipality or a parish, into your home which probably has piping that is at least 30 years old, and then the water goes through a plastic tube that can harbor all sorts of small creatures intent on ruining your Sazerac.


Have you ever gone over to friend’s house and asked for a glass of ice water? Then you receive something that has a distinct odor about it.


You don’t want that ice in your drink. You didn’t even want it in your water. Whatever is in it won’t hurt you, but it is not top-quality.


Spend a few bucks. Stop by the grocery store. Buy a bag of ice. Use it. No taste. No odor. And there will be no drinks that smell metallic, or plastic, or a lot like those Brussel Sprouts you had for dinner a few nights ago.


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