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Drawing up a wine list can be intimidating for even the most seasoned bar manager. There are thousands of options to choose from and huge variations in taste, quality, and price. It is not something to be taken lightly, either. For many bars and restaurants, the beloved beverage makes up a significant portion of overall sales.

On the whole, it doesn’t have to be a scary process. With these 7 tips, building a wine list will be easy, fast, and profitable for your business.

1. Start with a plan

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Before you start browsing brands, draft a plan for your wine list. Know your price point, whether the list will be themed, how many types you plan to offer, and which bottles pair best with your food. Planning ahead will keep you from getting overwhelmed and ensure your search is targeted right from the start. It will also help with keeping your end customer and overall branding in mind.

2. Keep it simple

Unless you employ an army of sommeliers, don’t over complicate your list. A simple list is easier for customers and staff to navigate and makes stocking inventory easier– both of which means more profit at the end of the day. For most restaurants, a small list of thoughtfully chosen wines will resonate better with customers.

3. Stock the basics

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With simplicity in mind, a good wine list should cover a few basics. Unless you have a very specific theme, it should feature both red and white wines with varying levels of sweetness and body. For example, your basic reds might include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and a full-bodied Malbec along with basic whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and a sweeter option like a Riesling.

4. Make it unique

While you can’t go wrong with a simple wine list covering the basics, do save room for one or two unique options to add interest. This can be a great way to incorporate a local wine or more unusual varieties, like Portuguese green and Georgian wine. Research industry trends for this liquor or what is popular in your area to help you choose the best one for your list.

5. Rotate seasonally

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Another way to set your list apart, as well as meet customer demands, is to rotate your list seasonally. For example, during the warm summer months, no wine list is complete without at least one rosé. In winter, you might want to bulk up your warming red wine options over chilled whites.

You can also get more strategic with your seasonal rotation and use it to determine which wines your customers can’t live without. Your most popular seasonal items can then reappear as permanent menu staples or limited time promotions to boost sales. The best way to analyze your wine sales is with a bar inventory management software.

For example, WISK allows you to track your stock each time you count it. It then provides easy-to-read reports on your sales data so you can learn about which wines are the most popular and make decisions accordingly.

6. Optimize your pricing strategy

As with any menu item, good pricing is incredibly important for wine sales. Consider a tiered system in which you charge 2-3 times the price for low-cost bottles but charge at a lower markup for more expensive bottles. This will help narrow the price range between the cheapest and most expensive bottles, making it more likely that customers will choose higher-priced options.

Ultimately, though, the pricing strategy will vary based on the specific wine offered, your bar’s needs, and the area where you’re located. Make sure to do research and talk to your supplier to ensure the best prices. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reevaluate.

7. Involve your staff

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Wine lists can be daunting for many customers. The best way to make them comfortable ordering is to equip your staff with the knowledge and tools to describe the wines on your list and make suggestions. That doesn’t mean you need to turn your entire staff into sommeliers. Instead, provide a few talking points for each bottle and have a list of specific menu pairings for each. Just those few details will make it easier for staff and customers alike to understand the options.

Just like that, your wine list is set up for success! The best part is that these steps can be repeated anytime your menu needs a refresh, to ensure your wine list continues to be profitable and popular among your customers in the long term.

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