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By: Darren Gall Posted: September-20-2009 in
Hanoi's temple of fine wine and fine dining: Vine
Darren Gall

One of Hanoi’s favourite and finest Restaurants, the Vine Wine Bar has just been awarded its fifth consecutive ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence by the Internationally renowned U.S. wine magazine, the Wine Spectator. This award recognizes Vine’s wine list as being one of the finest restaurant wine list in all the world.

Only a relative handful of international restaurants receive such recognition, which the magazine states: recognizes restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. The Best of Award of Excellence was created to give special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions.
So just what does make a truly great wines list and restaurant wine program?

An extensive list, plenty of wines by the glass, mature wines from good vintages and an adequate list of aperitifs, beers, spirits, liqueurs and waters. The best lists have an original and innovative choice of wines and varietals that are sourced from regions where they do well.

A balance between modestly priced and expensive wines; between different countries and different regions and between established and new labels. Different varieties and styles of wine need to be catered for.

It is important that the list is suited to the cuisine and fits the style and image of the establishment.

It is vital that each list includes vintages and provides accurate, correctly spelled information about the wine and the region it comes from. Clear design and layout that makes a list easy to navigate are rewarded.

Look for value whilst also taking into account that many restaurants have high overheads.

Given that a restaurant wine list may cover the basics above, let’s take a look at some of the wine program innovations occurring in restaurants today that are setting the finest ahead of the pack:

Perhaps the biggest recent innovation has been the desire to get the Cellar out of the basement and in front of the customer. Just as ‘open’ kitchens in restaurants have inspired people’s interest in the culinary arts, temperature controlled wine racks and glass wine cellars in full view of the public have given dinners hands on access to wines and piqued their interest. Several restaurants around the planet now sport ‘wine towers’ two and three stories high, where ‘wine angels’ flitter up and down on cables and pulleys fetching selected bottles.

Another, more subtle innovation has been to let the wine list invade the food menu by putting wine pairing recommendation alongside each dish. This can be very helpful to dinners and prompt them to try something new and exciting as long as the menu doesn’t become too cumbersome or crammed and hard to digest (pardon the pun).

I would also add that is seems rather pointless to make a wine pairing recommendation without giving at the very least a one line explanation or consideration for the match.

Probably most important of all has been the rise and rise of the role of the sommelier (just as it should), The sommelier plays a critical role in the success of a restaurant’s wine list and they have increasingly taken a central role in the promotion of a restaurant’s wine program.

Apart from being responsible for all of the above mention criteria, the sommelier -once regarded as a mere drinks waiter- is also responsible for the development of the wine list, the procurement, storage and handling, wine list lay-out, wine matching recommendations, wine marketing and communications, staff training and maintaining levels of wine quality and service.

It is my learned opinion that any restaurant achieving and maintaining such standards promises to deliver an enjoyable and enthralling wining and dining experience, one that should have you coming back and making new discoveries time and again –see you at Vine.

A version of this article appeared in GOLF Vietnam magazine

Darren Gall is an Asia based freelance wine, food and travel writer

he may be contact at darren [at] auskhmer [dot] com


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