Where To Find The Best Wine Lists In The World
67 Pall Mall, London. Photograph courtesy of 67 Pall Mall
What makes a great restaurant? There is the food, of course, the location perhaps and the service most definitely. But even with all those things, without a decent wine list even the greatest place in the world flops like an underdone soufflé. Food and wine go together like hope and glory. They elide, co-mingle and elevate even simple meals to the realm of full-blown technicolour experience.
The best restaurants know this, and that is why they go to such agonies over their wine lists and employ sommeliers to scour the Earth for the best match for those caramelised veal sweetbreads or this aged comté cheese. It is a calling for them, as strong and as magnetic as the priesthood.
Some wine lists are encyclopaedic, stretching to more than 100 pages with a list of the Who’s Who of fine wine, and we approve of this, for sure. But size isn’t everything. The greatest lists in the world offer the celebrated domaines, but also richness, depth and interest. They display a knowledge of the best producers, the hidden gems and the bleeding-edge trends in wine.
These establishments revere the symbiotic relationship between what’s on your plate and what’s in your glass because they understand the secret formula. Fine dining is greater than the sum of its parts. With all that in mind, we have zig-zagged the globe, never flinching from the glass, to bring you the best restaurants with the best wine lists.
Best For Champagne
Eleven Madison Park, New York, US
Wine director Mr Cedric Nicaise. Photograph courtesy of Eleven Madison Park
Photograph by Mr Jake Chessum, courtesy of Eleven Madison Park
The wine list at Eleven Madison Park is almost biblical, taking up some 200 vinous pages (maybe check it out online before you arrive, unless you want to be there until the cows come home). The three-Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant does the classic wine regions very well. The classic bordeaux and the most desirable burgundys all turn up to the Madison Park party. The restaurant even pays homage to the increasingly respected producers upstate with two pages dedicated to the wines of New York. One can also get stuck in to the six-page by-the-glass wine list organised by grape variety. There are the usual suspects as well as left-of-centre varietals such as vermentino and zweigelt. The often-sidelined madeira lover will also find every style on offer – a glass of 1928 D’Olivieras Sercial, perhaps – and you’ll all be drooling over the half-bottle selection. But even better than that incredibly rich bounty are the champagne pages. They are luminous. You will find everything from the most prestigious houses to tiny boutique growers, and there’s not just one vintage to choose from. There are seven whole pages of champagne’s loveliest seasons over the past 40 years to devour.
Best For Portuguese Wines
The Yeatman Hotel, Porto, Portugal
The tasting room at The Yeatman Hotel. Photograph courtesy of The Yeatman Hotel
The wine list also known as The Wine Book at this luxury hotel and restaurant runs to more than 1,200 bins and takes you on a journey round Portugal’s most famous quintas and its undiscovered jewels. Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, the historic home of the port industry where its rich fortified wines have aged for centuries, the 25,000-bottle cellar has some of Portugal’s best. There is a patriotic emphasis on drinking local, but for those who overindulged the previous evening on Taylor’s Vintage Port 1966, there is an impressive selection of mature fine wines from the world’s best producers. Want to sample a bottle of St Emilion’s Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf that is at its peak now or an aged-to-perfection Dominus from Napa Valley? No problem. For those feeling adventurous, you can also travel around Portugal’s wine regions by the glass. For every room in this hotel, overlooking the majestic river Douro as it winds its way to the Atlantic Ocean, there is a different wine by the glass, which means 83 different options by the copo.
Best For Burgundy
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia
Photograph by Mr Derek Swalwell/Byrne Architects, courtesy of Royal Mail Hotel
The wine cellar. Photograph by Mr Derek Swalwell/Byrne Architects, courtesy of Royal Mail Hotel
This is a historic pub that has been turned into a must-visit restaurant. Set in the gorgeous Grampians, a three-hour drive west of Melbourne, there’s been a lot of love and care lavished on this restaurant and its wine list. Expect classics from all corners of the Earth, cellared in their original wooden cases, until ready to be drunk by appreciative punters. This being Victoria, there’s a ripper Aussie wine selection, but there’s more to its 100 jam-packed pages than just home-grown talent. It boasts “the largest privately owned collection of bordeaux and burgundy wines in the southern hemisphere”. Indeed, it would take burgundy lovers years to get through the collection. There are 150 different pinots noirs from Gevrey-Chambertin, a single village south of Dijon, alone. Leave Melbourne before noon and you’ll be in time for the daily tour and a small tasting of the 28,000-bottle cellar, worth an estimated AU$2.8m. That’s some inventory.
Best For Independent Producers
Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark
Photograph by Mr Claes Bech-Poulsen, courtesy of Geranium
Take the lift to the eighth floor of the national football stadium in Copenhagen and you’ll enter the gourmet Premier League at Geranium. A modern Scandinavian dining champion, it made headlines when it was awarded three Michelin stars while its more famous compatriot Noma – the four-time winner of best restaurant in the world – could manage only two. And, well, also because it’s in a football stadium. The restaurant’s elevated position provides views over the Danish capital’s leafy Fælledparken, but the real action is in the cellar. The wine list aims to satisfy traditionalists who flick straight to the pages containing historic châteaux and domaines of France. But there’s also another important theme running through the wine selection here. The restaurant celebrates small, independent producers who are making natural wine with minimal intervention. Reflecting the wider backlash against processed food, the natural wine movement eschews packet yeast and other processed additives. Watch out for Belgian-born Sicilian producer Mr Frank Cornelissen and Yarra Valley’s Mr Timo Mayer, in particular.
Best For Pairing
Les 110 de Taillevent, Paris, France
Photograph by Ms Anne-Emmanuelle Thion, courtesy of Brasserie Les 110 de Taillevent
Pâté en croûte. Photograph by Ms Anne-Emmanuelle Thion, courtesy of Brasserie Les 110 de Taillevent
OK, it’s not the longest list in the world, but it simplifies the stupidly complex process of pairing wine and food so you can enjoy your meal and your dining companion’s conversation instead of agonising over whether the Châteauneuf-du-Pape was really the best option with your soon-to-be-served hunk of red meat. The menu offers four different wine suggestions by the glass for every dish, depending on your budget. If you’re living the champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget, go for the less-than-€10 wine option, otherwise fill your senses and your stomach with the finest wines France has to offer, from Mr Didier Dagueneau’s purest Pouilly Fumé to a racy Raveneau chablis. In total, there are Les 110 wines by the glass in 70ml or 125ml pours and another 330 different wines by the bottle if you are in freestyling mood.
Best For By The Glass
67 Pall Mall, London, UK
Photograph courtesy of 67 Pall Mall
Without question the address for wine lovers in the UK, 67 Pall Mall offers hundreds of wines by the glass. The reason it is able to do this is that it uses a cutting-edge and very expensive gadget called a Coravin, which allows you to drink wine without removing the top. A needle pierces the cork and draws wine from the bottle and then allows the cork to re-seal itself, leaving the remaining wine intact. You will find bordeaux, burgundy and champagne marques alongside off-the-beaten-track finds from Sardinia or the Loire. And if you fancy checking on the evolution of the 1994 Petrus or the 2008 Screaming Eagle, or even the magnum of superlative 1947 Lafite-Rothshild, you can do it in 25ml or 125ml pours. Mr Marcus Verberne, the former head chef at Roast in Borough Market, provides an unfussy, beautifully cooked menu of wine-friendly delights, including rock oysters (champagne or sauvignon blanc?) and penne of wild boar ragu (pour yourself a Tuscan red). If the list gives you decision fatigue, you can put yourself in the hands of one of the many highly qualified sommeliers. Little wonder 67 Pall Mall has become the common room of the London wine trade.