JWL Issue #016: Ordering from a Restaurant (The List)

August 21, 2018

Last Thursday, New Zealand Wine Cellar hosted the Pinot Pundit Challenge. With a venue more suited to a small gig than to a wine tasting, it didn’t feel like a natural habitat for an exploration into the old world vs new world. But then again that may well have been the point.

As far as events go, it’s a great way to explore what more expensive wines taste like. We had six tasting glasses from bottles that retailed between £15 and £55. At £25 a ticket, with wine leftover at the end, and a solid evening’s entertainment, I found it very good value. Despite the higher price points, I’ve covered the event in this week’s Taste.

I’m introducing something in Learn: the first of a mini-series of ordering wine in a restaurant. I was originally going to write about the topic in general but it felt like there were too many things to cover in one email. Depending on demand I’ll either drop these in one a week from now on or do them every now and again - let me know what you prefer.

Wine Car Boot returned this weekend: I couldn’t make it this time, but it looked like a great day again: what was everyone drinking there?


To my shock, I found that the new world wines beat the old world in most rounds at the Pinot Pundit Challenge.

Round one saw a spätburgunder which I found a bit flat and leathery before its time, face off against a much better Kumea River. Both were in the £14-16 price point.

Round two saw things heat up with a delicious Jura that stomped all over the round one drinks. It had an aroma of violets, and red fruits. I overheard someone nearby say ‘struck match’ and I couldn’t help but agree. By comparison the Yarra Valley it faced was tightly compacted and not as expressive.

By round three, I was pretty excited. We had a Beaune from the old world and a Central Otago from the new world. For me the Central Otago won hands down: it was fruitier than the Burgundy but with just as much complexity. It was full bodied, well structured and quickly joined the list of the most memorable wines I’ve ever drank. The Burgundy by comparison felt astringent and too tannic at this age. 


Ordering wine in a restaurant: part one

There’s usually two lengths of wine list in the modern, reasonably-priced restaurant in London: the short ‘by the glass’ list, and then a longer list of bottles (likely a page of A4 or two). We won’t go into the Epic Folders Reserved For The Bastions of Fine Dining and will save that for another day. 

By the glass is a great way of discovering a few new things. Purposefully choose grapes or regions you don’t know, to get a sense of what they’re like, then make a note of what you like. 

Most restaurants I visit these days have a few good selections by the glass, with Stockwell Continental and Flour and Grape being two recent highlights with particularly good lists. Likewise, the more wine-focused the restaurant the longer this list is likely to be.



This week I came across the word ’monopole’ on a bottle. Monopole is French for monopoly, and means exactly that: that particular winemaker has a monopoly for that particular area.

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