ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Many times restaurants have wines in their cellar that aren’t on the wine list. You have to make a special request to hear about them. What is the purpose of not having all the wines on the list?

—Craig, Lancaster, Pa.

Dear Craig,

I think there are two main reasons for the “secret” wine list. The first might be practical: a restaurant might only have a couple of bottles of a particular wine in its inventory. If they put it on the list and it sells out, then they have to reprint the entire list to reflect the updated inventory. If this happens often, it could mean a lot of trees and time lost. It might just be easier to have bottles of rare or old wines hand-sold to wine lovers.

The second reason is to create an “insider” feeling. If a sommelier tells you they have a bottle that they’d like to sell you exclusively, it might make you feel like a highfalutin wine connoisseur. I’m guessing it’s a combination of these two factors.

—Dr. Vinny


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