Wine lists compiled in a self-serving manner. Overrated Hungarian items. Wines that are liked only by the sommelier but do not go well with the dishes. What mistakes can we discover on a wine list when we go to a restaurant? Wine expert Attila Fiáth draws attention to a few important aspects.
Attila Fiáth is a committed lover and educator of sophisticated wines, an acknowledged economist and international wine academic, and professor at Corvinus University of Budapest, where he has also recently received the Professor of the Year award. An eternal traveller who, besides having gone around the world and seen its most important wine regions, has studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, and presently is a student of the Institute of Masters of Wine, therefore candidate for the extremely prestigious Master of Wine title.
Attila Fiáth’s tips for wine experts and wannabe wine experts
- Look for what is special.
If I was a sommelier at a restaurant, it would be a basic thing for me to not want to offer the same wine as another restaurant. It’s not good if someone makes a relatively good wine list and then I see it copied in several restaurants. The other problem is precisely that they do not pay attention to other restaurants, so they accidentally keep the same wines.
- Classical dishes and fashionable wines next to each other.
A restaurant must keep fashionable wines. It is very bad that experts in Hungary think fashionable things are lame, even though they themselves create trends. At the moment, for instance, they despise prosecco, while copying volcanic wines, and wanting to drink tasteless, salty wines.
There is nothing wrong with fashion. More and more emphasis is placed on the look of wine bottles beside their content. The appearance of a wine or the message of its label has become important.
- We shouldn’t care about what the sommelier likes.
Today, it is often the case that a wine is added to the wine list only because the sommelier likes it. But who cares? Why do we keep it? We may already have five types of this variety, and it may not fit the cuisine. Nobody cares about what the sommelier likes. The only thing that matters is what types of wines the restaurant’s regular customers like – and these might be fashionable wines. You can recommend new items, of course, but, at the end of the day, the point is what the restaurant’s clientele would like to choose.
- It is not appropriate to keep a very cheap wine at a fine dining restaurant.
There might be a wine that I consider really good, that is characterized by an excellent price-quality proportion and could perfectly match the dishes of a given restaurant, but I don’t keep it, because it can be purchased for 1,490 HUF in a hipermarket. It follows that you have to go there and buy all of it. But you don’t want to keep this type of wine at a fine dining restaurant.
- Vintage and good price-quality proportion is important.
Restaurants keep too many overpriced Hungarian items, and an exigent consumer is aware of this. A good restaurant keeps prestige wines on its wine list, but I often experience unpreparedness on this front as well. There are vintages that are acceptable, but others are not, however expensive the given wine is. A well-trained expert knows if a given vintage is not worth that money, so we don’t keep it, which someone who understands wine will notice immediately.
When you walk into a restaurant and see that there are nineteen different furmints on the wine list, all from the same vintage, you’ll think that either the owner has so much money or that they don’t care. What do they want to show with this?
- Wine concept instead of wine list.
You don’t need a big and long wine menu. It is not good when a restaurant keeps good wines but the wine list doesn’t give you a clue as to why they keep precisely those types of wines. The most important thing is the wine concept. The biggest mistake is when the wine list and the menu do not harmonize. The essence is that there is a concept and I stick to it. Each dish on the menu should have at least one, preferably two, wines, that perfectly match the dish – and, if we want to be elegant, one should be Hungarian, and the other one foreign.
The wine concept of Baraka was made by Attila Fiáth. We are offering prestige wines which fit perfectly to our French-Asian cuisine.