Restaurant Wine List

Guest Explorer: Venetia Wegelin

Venetia finished her studies in Cape Town and headed back to Johannesburg in 2009 where she found herself looking for a passion project. With a heavy family background in food and wine, a fun job became her career and lifestyle and her introduction to the wine industry began. Owner and director at Le Vino Vita (literally, The Wine Life), Venetia has focused her passion into representing top Cape estates for over 10 years.

A great wine list, very simply put, is a list with great variety. It should make wine feel like an exciting part of a trip out to a restaurant and not be the dreaded section of the menu that you dare to look at in fear of intimidation. We all know that feeling, especially on those first dates or the introduction to your in-laws to be!

Putting together a wine list is one of the best pleasures of being a Somm. Learning about different wines, meeting great winemakers and tasting the goods proves to be a great hobby come occupation for some.

As the (wine) consumer, it’s up to you to diversify your knowledge on the different wine labels and blends available…a journey itself well worth the effort. We have a fantastic, world-class offering right on our doorstep in the Cape, a mere 20-40 minute drive and you can be in wine country. That’s why trips to ‘explore sideways’ are a great start. You can literally choose any cultivar, area or theme and enjoy a tailored trip to the winelands to meet the faces behind the wines and learn the ins and outs of wine and winemaking.

To get you through your immediate travel plans, have a look at my 5 simple and easy steps to identifying a good wine list and how to best navigate them:

Restaurant Wine List
Image credit: via Instagram
Restaurant Wine List
Image credit: usawineratings via Instagram


There should be a synergy between the wine list, food menu and the restaurant as a whole. The wine list should exude the classic, edgy or relaxed atmosphere of the place that you have chosen.


This can be tricky these days, as we’re often spoilt for choice with the fantastic deals being offered by big retailers and wine shops alike, but there should be a reasonable mark-up on the wines (not exorbitant).  Having said that, one should consider this: you are paying to be in a (hopefully) gorgeous setting, drinking out of presumably good wine glasses and being served by well trained wait staff. This, coupled with the amount of time and effort that goes into procuring the wines in the first place, means that you are paying for an experience rather than just the product itself. Of course, it’s up to you what you’re willing to pay for wine but more often than not, your dining experience is elevated by the wine you choose… so why not live a little!

Wine by the Glass

The other thing I look for is a great “wine by the glass” offering. This is really where I go to first. Gone are the days of the single-variety-classical offerings. With food becoming more dynamic and worldly, the wine by the glass offering should reflect those trends too. I’m talking cava (Spanish bubbly), white blends, interesting red blends and Cinsauts. In short, fun wines to try a glass of and move on when you’re feeling adventurous. After all, eating out is all about experiencing new tastes. Why not explore that in your drinks choice too?


There is diversity in regions across South Africa (and the world, depending on where you are eating out) as well as cultivars. You should be seeing blends with varietals that you may not have heard of before but could widen your taste and blow your mind. I’m loving the new styles of rosé coming out of South Africa at the moment as well as the white blends which make for really interesting food partners to tapas and dishes with a bit more punch. Which brings me to my last tip…

Food Pairing

Good food pairing suggestions. This can really help the menu be relatable to you, the drinker. This can be put across by either us, Somms, or printed on the actual menu if it is seasonally updated.

Good luck fellow wine lovers and happy drinking this summer…

Planning a trip?

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