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Four Bangkok wine gurus on what makes an amazing wine list (and what really annoys them)

"At the top of my list of all-time wine list annoyances is when the sommelier tries to show how much smarter they are than anyone else."

By Natcha Sanguankiattichai | Mar 14, 2017

  • Four Bangkok wine gurus on what makes an amazing wine list (and what really annoys them)

Kim Wachtveitl, owner of Wine Garage

What makes a great wine list?

The price range should match the overall experience and food. There should also be some top-notch food matches by varietals, style or country. A good list should offer staples from known regions and varietals, but also include some maturing or older vintages, as well as wines for experts, like unknown grapes, hard-to-locate bottles or unconventional wines—organic, biodynamic, natural, orange, that sort if thing­. Aa great wine list will certainly include a library of auction wines across multiple vintages. 

How do you approach the wine list when visiting a restaurant?

Many restaurants with professional sommeliers list wines by style—body, texture, aromas—but I am not sure this works today in Thailand. So we continue to see wine lists grouped by country and regions, or sometimes similar grape varieties. Personally, I look for estates I’ve read about but haven’t yet tried, or varietals and regions I am keen to learn about. Then of course also the price!

What annoys you about restaurant wine lists?

When an operator lists their wines by price in ascending order. Customers will most likely pick the second or third wine on the list, and not really explore further. The market and tastes remain the same forever.

Wine Garage, 02-262-0255. winegarage.asia


Aman Sachdev, founding Partner of Global Vineyards & La Casa Nostra

What makes a great wine list?

Except maybe Michelin-star restaurants and     five-star hotels, no one can charge high prices anymore. Now there are many new-generation wine bars and restaurants in the West that offer wines at attractive prices. This is what I look for: good wines at the right price. For me great wine lists offer a good selection of small producers, small wine growers, limited-quantity and hard-to-find wines. 

How do you approach the wine list when visiting a restaurant?

I normally look for winemakers I’ve never tried before or hidden gems that I’ve read about. It’s always fun to go to a restaurant with a good sommelier who works hard to find these special wines and put them on the list.

What annoys you about restaurant wine lists? 

Wine lists that consist of big commercial brands you can find in any supermarket. Big companies and big producers give incentives to staff to select and push their wines so it takes away the precious work of a sommelier. In some restaurants, sommeliers are not needed, just a purchasing manager. I believe wine is about experience, stories, history and who you enjoy it with. 

La Casa Nostra, 22 Sathorn Soi 1 Yaek 2 (Goethe), 02-287-2402. Open daily 11:30am-midnight


Ross Edward Marks, Director of sales at BB&B

What makes a great wine list?

The 80/20 rule is always applicable. Eighty percent of the sales come from twenty percent of the list. The rest is just added bonus for some people to choose from and let the sommelier or beverage manager display some imagination and offer diversity. A great wine list also has to be affordable. There is nothing worse than severely overcharging for wine. A decent wine by the glass selection is essential to a great list. 

How do you approach the wine list when visiting a restaurant?

I look at the list from several angles, but it has to be quickly digestible. You are in a restaurant to socialize and eat and drink, not read a book. What wines look interesting? How much do they cost? What are we eating and does this make sense? These are all questions I ask myself. 

What annoys you about restaurant wine lists? 

Very simple: first, never write a wine list in order of price. This makes me think only of money and not the wine. Spelling, misinformation or being out of stock is not acceptable. Check the label, the vintage, the producer and type it correctly. If you change vintages or run out, reprint the list. At the top of my list of all-time wine list annoyances is when the sommelier tries to show how much smarter they are than anyone else. They load the list with obscure wines that nobody has ever heard of and expect you to ask for help. This is pandering to one percent of guests. 

BB&B, 809 Soi. Pattanakarn 30, 02-136-8500


Benoit Bigot, sommelier at Suhring

What makes a great wine list?

For me a great wine list is one that is made to go with the food served in the restaurant. If I had mostly heavy wines at Suhring it would not make sense as our food is quite delicate. A great wine list should show the personality and style of its curator as well; same as with the food menu.

How do you approach the wine list when visiting a restaurant?

I always check the wine by the glass selection first. Wine by the glass should reflect the style of the list. Quite often, the selection by the glass is made with safety in mind, with more famous or easy-selling wines than discoveries. After that, I look at the producers listed by the bottle as this is the most important factor for quality.

What annoys you about restaurant wine lists?

These days most wine lists all look very similar with a lot of well-known brands and/or grapes. Our duty as sommeliers is to make people discover new and exciting wines, the same way chefs do with the food. It’s all about transferring the concept of the restaurant onto the wine list to create a unique experience for your guest.

Suhring, 10 Yen Akat Soi 3, Yen Akat Rd., 02-287-1799. Open daily 6pm-midnight 

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