Friday, 11 February 2011

Restaurant wine lists - on the up?

Fiona Beckett's recent article on her Wine Naturally blog describes how highly rated London restaurant Hibiscus has launched a new wine list (PDF download here) where some 90% of the wines could be described as "natural wines" - the subject of my previous post on this blog.

What stuck me most on studying it, however, is that more Languedoc-Roussillon wines are listed than Bordeaux - 30 vs 21 including magnums and dessert wines.  Even on reds alone its evenly matched at 17 to 18 clarets if one ignores four half-bottles of Bordeaux. Obviously excepting restaurants in these respective wine growing regions I've never seen such a ratio.

On the negative side, UK restaurants invariably offer a Languedoc Vin de Pays d'Oc as their house or entry priced wines and this can only fuel the perception that the region isn't for choosing a better more expensive bottle from. Back in France, a rural restaurant in Normandy recently listed zero L-R wines and on chatting to the owner she commented lovely wines but no customer demand. Back at Hibiscus, the entry price is £26 for a red from the Gard but you could part with £390 for a magnum of “Le Merle aux Alouettes” from Alain Chabanon, a Merlot from near Montpeyroux that pipped Petrus and others in a blind tasting a few years ago.

As the market for natural wines evolves the image of the Languedoc-Roussillon, along with other "country wines" will only benefit although the window of opportunity may be short lived.


  1. £390 for a magnum of Merle aux Alouettes, Graham? I was selling that cuvée for around £18 per bottle, 2 or 3 years ago. Even if it is now selling for around £25 per bottle, that would make a magnum worth about 50 quid (retail, not trade). By my calculations, £390 represents a mark-up of at least 900%. That is quite simply obscene. Grrrrr!

  2. Manager at the restaurant used to be at the Ledbury.


  3. Sommelier at Hibiscus is Romain Henry, winner of the Sud de France Sommelier of the Year competition in 2009 and a Languedoc-Roussillon native. Isabelle Legeron MW who selects the wines for Hibiscus is a big fan of wines from Languedoc-Roussillon; she is also organising the Natural Wine Fair in London later this year (