The Wine List Disconnect

Let’s say you went to a friend’s house and were served homemade chocolate chip cookies made with organic ingredients. What are you going to drink with it? Milk, of course. So your host brings out a carton from an industrial dairy where the cows are fed a steady diet of anti-biotics, hormones and grass sprayed with Roundup. What would you think? There’s a bit of a disconnect, no?

That’s how I often feel when I go out to eat. Many restaurants make a point of writing on the menu that only local, organic and otherwise precious ingredients are used in their dishes. Great. That doesn’t mean the food is tasty, but still, “A” for making an effort. However, so many of these places get a big old “F” – as in, for fuck’s sake – when it comes to applying the same standards to their wine lists.

As you might expect, I heavily judge a restaurant by the wine it serves. It’s at least 50% of the equation. If the selection is, on the whole, composed of wines from environmentally conscious, non-interventionist and equally important, talented producers, I assume I can expect the same from the kitchen. I’ve only been to one place over the last year that had a terrific wine list but meh food so I’d say this is a pretty reliable litmus test.

As for the spots that have good food, but virtually nothing worth drinking, I’ve made peace with bringing my own wine. Perhaps if enough people do this it will send a message? You can also make your views known by contacting the owner or manager. Or, just not frequent these spots though being direct is a much more effective way to get your point across.

I’ve had this discussion with numerous people both in and out of the wine industry, so don’t think I’m the only one kvetching. And, since it is just as bad in New York as it is on the West Coast I’m going to guess that this is a national problem.

We all have different taste. Also, let’s not be under the illusion that mediocrity is limited to conventionally made wines. Yet is it not hypocritical to take great pains to serve food that is responsibly made but not apply the same standard to the wine list? 

Just a thought…


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