Wine Blogger Says U.S. Eateries Can Learn From Japan’s Wine Lists

 


Who hasn’t cracked open a wine list, only to be overwhelmed by a list of wines whose lack of brevity makes them seem like a vino version of the Code of Hammurabi? 
 
This past week, well-known wine blogger W. Blake Gray proposed a novel solution for wine list saturation simplify, Japanese-style. Gray used examples from his own restaurant experiences in Japan to illustrate his point. 
 
“Sake could be nearly as complicated to choose from a list as wine,” he wrote this past week. “But in Japan, it’s easier to order than beer.”
 
Blake noticed that most Japanese restaurants had a limited choice of sake’s from which to choose – some restaurants had three or four, an interesting situation considering the nation’s love for the drink.
 
“Most restaurants, even fine ones, have only a few sakes on the list,” he wrote. “We stayed in a terrific gourmet ryokan in Izukogen that had only four sakes, and one was sold out.” 
 
In the case of the Izukogen restaurant, there was cheap option, a local option and the expensive option. 
 
“We chose the local brew, which is of course what they want; the idea is that it goes with the local ingredients,” he wrote. 
 
Even restaurants who specialize in sake – Tokyo’s Teppen, for example – offer a limited array. 
 
“It had three pages of sakes,” Blake wrote about the restaurant's sake list. “But two pages listed 3 sakes each with extensive descriptions, and one listed 9 with shorter descriptions.”
Blake wondered if this calculated brevity could catch on in the United States. It’s possible, he said – West Coast establishments have for a long time borrowed ideas from Japanese kitchens.
 
“California restaurants have been taking culinary cues from Japan for years, in ingredients, technique and even actual dishes,” he wrote. “Twenty years ago it was sushi; now there’s a ramen craze. I wonder if there’s something U.S. restaurants can learn from their wine lists from Japan’s sake choice philosophy.”
 
Blake closed his post with a brief discussion about the implications of shorter wine lists at restaurants in the United States. 
 
He pointed out that the Japanese philosophy emphasizes sake choices made before the restaurant opens. Effort is put into writing helpful descriptions “that allow us to learn about our choices without having to ask about every wine on the list.”
 
The advantage? Diners get to focus on what’s on their plate, not what’s in their glass.
 
“Ordering is faster and less fraught with potential regret, and diners can concentrate on the reason they came: the food,” he wrote. 
 

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