21 Aug 2011

Let's have more creative wine lists

A friend of mine recently sent me a copy of the wine list from a restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. The restaurant is called The Outsider, and the owner's name is Malcolm Innes. The man obviously has culture and a keen sense of humour. So why on earth are such qualities not applied more often to wine lists? You certainly do not see them often in France, where wine is too often either piteously ignored, simply taken for granted, or else taken far too seriously by stuffy, over-technical sommeliers and the like.

Here is a shot of the Oustsider restaurant from, yes, the outside

and here is how it looks from the other side (in)

Looks nice, simple and full of people

Now here is the wine list, more or less in extenso. It is well worth a read, especially for the comments on each. I am not passing any judgement on the quality of the wines, most of which I do not know.

the Outsider wine list

red wine

Sabina Tempranillo, Spain 09
A perfectly sound red, yes, yes. Gently spicy and of freshly picked brambles and raspberries,

Forge Mill Shiraz/Cinsault, South Africa
Kermit runs away from Miss Piggy at 62km/hr and she chases three minutes later at 87km/hr. How long will it take for her to catch up with poor Kermit? Sup this frisky wine and just forget I ever asked you.

Sierra Grande Merlot, Chile
Think of summer sun on the brow and naked frolicking hamadryads in dance. This wine is deliciously deep, and could well induce something resembling a chromatic dream.

Champs de Moulin Grenache France 09
Until I was ten I believed that I arrived into the world with my brother floating down the river in wicker baskets whilst my mother and father were on a church picnic. I've since become a less gullible atheist. A bundle of soft, plummy fruit.

False Bay Pinotage, Breede River Valley, South Africa 08
Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years. Let the mulberry, blackberry scent of this wine take you to the caravan of your youth and the vanilla perfume of your nanny's bosom.

Domalne de Bahourat, Cabernet Sauvlgnon, France 09
Do you see the moon as a dead thing over a dying thing? Let this wine take your mind off such nihilistic thoughts. Swim in its wild raspberry, chocolate and damson gorgeousness and relax a little.

Allanca, Dào Reserva, Portugal 07
There's a jazz number called Apple Honey, and this could be as mellow. Refined, seamless with a red cherry/vanilla smoothness.

Murphy’s Shiraz, Murray River, South Australia 09
Don't overlook the capacity that only man has to divert his senses for sheer pleasure. The Australians want to help you in this exercise with this tricky, smooth, damson, spicy joy.

Nieto Reserve Malbec, Argentina 09
The Caribs, cannibals who gave their name to the Caribbean, considered the French delicious, the English reasonable, the Dutch tasteless and the Argentineans, they just never sampled. Wonder what they would have made of this juicy firm bodied red wine that's garnished with red and black fruit?

Rioja Artesa Crianza, Spain 07
When you get a good steak in America, it's the best in the world, especially when it is served at the heat of a freshly killed animal. Wash it down with this deliciously deep, chocolate and cherry ripe wine

Sangiovese Ancora, ltaly 09
Man, being reasonable, must get drunk; the best of life is but intoxication. Glory to the grape... one sip of this wine will fill you with undiluted joy. Just delicious. Gorgeous vanilla oak, black cherry and rich chocolate.

Kahurangi Estate Plnot Nolr, Nelson, New Zealand 09
Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do. Which is a relief to know because | was brought up to believe that it was the major ingredient in everything I was no good at. Instinctively, you'll know that this is an expressive wine reminiscent of raspberries and jasmine.

Côtes du Rhone Villagss 'Les Coteaux', France 07
Dorothy Parker painted her living room in nine shades of red; pink, vermilion, scarlet, crimson, maroon, raspberry, rose, russet and magenta. Red. Symbolic of love and hate, sex and the devil and the clown's nose. No other colour so evocative. It doesn’t come more red than this damson, bramble, chocolate coffee wine.

rosé wine

Sabina Rosé, Navarra 09
Voluptuous and pink,

Ca'di Ponti Rose Sicilia 10
subtle and elegant

white wine

Sabina Viura, Spain 09
A dry and attractive gypsy of a wine that's a trifle fresh.

Forge Mill Chenin Blanc, South Africa 10
It's like falling from a white water raft whilst passing through a peach grove.

Champs du Moulin Colombard, France 09
This wine isn't about church on the corner, tea and scone, one more stuffed head on the wall. Enjoy the life with this riverside floral wine

El Caballo Sauvignon Blanc, Chile 1O
lmagine you're in bed, the ceiling fan's hypnotising, it's hot and sultry and the air is both spicy and dry on your lips. It’s South America; you've just got away with it. An appealingly easy-going wine.

Pinot Grigio/Garganega, ltaly 10
The crazy delicious things we could do in life rather than the dull stupid way of routine. You just don’t want to be 55 and looking and looking back on life with a Bukowski bittemess. Within this bottle lies something of the beautiful life, to colour your thoughts and provoke action.

Scotto Chardonnay California 08
Refreshing in a wrestling with an orangutan kind of way, a big arm lock of a wine delicately holding you.

Alasia Muscat Sec, ltaly nv
A sexy wine. This wine is the perfect type of perfect pleasure, it's exquisite and leaves you unsatisfied, wanting it again. A wine of silky textures, of honey blossom, of toast.

Montevista Reserve Vlognier, Chile 10
Most think of design in the terms of putting lipstick on a gorilla. With the Scottish Parliament Building it's looking confused, wearing a dress and teetering on broken heels. Comfort your eyes with a drop of this ultra clean wine of ripe pears, peaches with a twist of Turkish delight.

Turckheim Vieilles Vignes Sylvaner, Alsace France 08
As an animal, we have been seeing for millions of year, linguistically fairly recently. This muscular wine will produce one of those totem words and cosh you with it.

Sauvignon Blanc 'The Cat', Nelson, New Zealand 10
There is a delicate flower to be found amongst the weeds. A wine for the shade of a summer orchard. Light, fresh, full of gooseberry fruit and bramble leaves, delightful.

Gavi La Battistina, Piedmont, ltaly 10
l'm interested in this moment when two objects collide and generate a third. Wine glass, lips and you have a smile. This delicately smooth flowery wine of pear and acacia will do just that: it will make you smile.

Escaromont Pinot Gris, Nelson, New Zealand 09
A glass of this curvaceous wine will rocket you past Jupiter to a different sun and have you planting the weary seed of man all over again. Pack this crisp, floral exotic delight for the trip.

Eidosela Albarlno, Râis Baixâs, Spain 09
When life is jumping cricket and beautiful then try this soft, meadow flower wine.

Chablis La Colombo, Burgundy, France 09
The person you love is 72% water, about the same as a grape. I've always had a problem separating the two. Your lips sampling this soft elegant beauty and the same problem could be yours.

champagnes - sparkling wines

Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance. Devil you do or don't, you're forgiven.

Prosecco Frizzante Spagorosso, Domenico De Bertiol, ltaly

Cava Saint Monica, Spain

Gobillard Tradition NV Champagne

Gobillard Vintage 2005 Champagne

Gobillard Rosé Vlntage 2005 Champagne
Monsieur Gobillard has huge hands and those hands have cared after some fine vines to produce a damn good champagne

Veuve Clicquot NV


Well, I for one enjoyed reading this. I hope to go there soon!


  1. I know it’s the way most « non-European » wines are characterized, but look at the number of bottles of varietal wines on that list. It does not detract from their quality, but indicates a bias on behalf of the list-maker as well.

  2. I think it mainly indicates how most people around the world, including in the UK, choose their wines. Grape variety as a category, even if we know that it is inadequate to finely describe a wine's style, prevails not only over appellation but even over country of origin. That is a fact. One can huff and puff all day, but it will not go away quickly.

  3. You read between the lines, my friend, and it really made me think.
    It’s totally inappropriate as far as my own production is concerned – well, is it: one syrah (100 %), one carignan (100 %) and many largely grenache-dominated wines (> 80 %) ?
    And for sure, it’s the way we ALL try to analyze a bottle when challenged to guess what it is. We first try to recognize the type of grapes that were used, then the style of the wine and finally, by pure erudition, we try to fit those data in the right boxes, till we come up with a probable answer.
    What is so typical of a Gevrey-Chambertin, what is distinctive in a Bairrada, what do we seek in a Chinon, what makes Ribera del Duero unique .... Shit, you are right!