Opinion: If it works for chocolate ….

Drinks: Wines
Other: Opinion, People

I almost managed to bag a bar of chocolate at LIWF this year. The Wine Intelligence team ran a seminar on branding, and how packaging influences consumers. Working in teams we discovered that we could read all sorts of cues about bars of chocolate just from the wrapper. From the quality of the paper to the name of the brand, everything was telling us something. Even people who didn’t know these particular brands could rank them in order of price and make a good guess as to their target market and quality. The message was that what works for chocolate also works for wine. Check out a few labels and you’ll see what I mean.

Back in the office I started wondering if it might work for winelists too? Clearly the type of paper, style of cover and typeface are all part of restaurant design, and must influence customers. But what about the language, and the way the list is written? Imagine this chocolate: “Madagascan, organic  Guanaja 70% dark chocolate”. It would be quite different from  this one: “made with healthy Alpine milk”. Personally I’d be glad to try either, but it’s easy to guess which one is aimed at families, and which one is for connoisseurs.   So what happens if you apply the same logic to these two wine list descriptions:

  1. “100% Sauvignon Blanc; fresh and fruity; fennel, gooseberry, green tea”
  2. “Easy-going, gluggable fruit-bomb with lots of lovely gooseberry flavours and a real zesty, sauvignon blanc kick. Just right for pasta or chicken, sensational with our traditional fish & chips. Enjoy!!”

One of them comes from a restaurant with sommeliers, and one of them doesn’t.  The longer description is helpful, but the wine sounds a bit cheaper and maybe lower quality (please tell me you CAN work out which one’s from Hakkasan)? These two descriptions are actually the same wine, but they way they are written gives a completely different impression.

So another LIWF is over, and though I didn’t get the chocolate, I did get a new way to think about writing our wine lists. Enjoy!

About Author

Christine Parkinson

Christine Parkinson started her career in the kitchen, and moved into management after 3 years as Head Chef. Responsibility for 39 restaurants eventually convinced her to follow her passion and concentrate on wine. In 2001 Christine created the first wine list for Hakkasan, and later became Wine Buyer for the group, which includes the Michelin-starred restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, with operations in London, Miami and (soon) Abu Dhabi. She has been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by wine guru Jancis Robinson, and recently received the ‘Taste On-Trade Influencer Award, in association with Imbibe’. When not on the phone to suppliers, she is often out on a motorbike, and is therefore probably responsible for most of the UK’s bad weather.

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