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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

For business dinners at a nice restaurant, I prefer to review the wine list and make selections. That way, when guests arrive I’m free to talk and mingle. However, many restaurants—and more so it seems—will not email their wine list in advance of a reservation. Why is that?

—Louis R., Highland Village, Texas

Dear Louis,

I’ve actually had the opposite experience—I’m giddy about the number of restaurants that have a version of their wine list online. And I’m with you—I like to look at a wine list to get excited, to stake out a couple of wines in my budget, or to make sure the bottle I want to bring in isn’t one that’s already on their list, since that would be rude.

While I don’t know specifically why the restaurants you’re frequenting might not offer this service, I have a couple of ideas. First off, make sure you’re not calling in the middle of the lunch rush or dinner service, when messages are easier to get lost if the staff is busy and distracted.

But the biggest reason I can think of is that wine lists are constantly changing—vintages, prices, by-the-glass selections—these are always in flux. A restaurant might be hesitant to send you something that hasn’t been updated recently, or that might change by the time you show up for your meal. Some restaurants might not print the wine list themselves, or might not have a version that’s email-friendly.

No matter what the excuse, if you call ahead and explain that you’d like to come up with a strategy for wine purchases ahead of time, they should be able to accommodate you. You might even consider stopping in ahead of time to look at the list in person. In any case, I find that this information is more available these days than ever, and I wish you many advance peeks at wine lists in the future.

—Dr. Vinny


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