By Joe Hyam
Restaurateurs have two particular problems when creating wine lists. The first is in keeping the balance between house wines and the more glamorous and expensive items that help to give a list variety. The second is maintaining consistency without having to hold huge stocks.
Most wine merchants in these difficult times have systems in place to help restaurants cope with such problems. Many take on the role of stockholders, supplying the most important wines to restaurants when they need them.
A business often relies on one merchant for all its needs. But if it has a more creative approach and draws on several merchants for its list, there remains the challenge of the restaurateur tasting his way through hundreds of wines to find what he wants.
A merchant that has long supplied the hotel and restaurant trade is Yapp Bros (01747 860423), which specialises in wines of the Rhône, the Loire and Provence. It is now offering a short-cut, running a mixed case special offer for restaurants, partly to attract new trade clients but also to broaden the experience of existing ones.
There are three categories: basic house wines; better bottles; and what the head of the company, Robin Yapp, calls "decorative bottles" - not for everyday drinking but to ornament and add glamour to a wine list.
"The idea", says Yapp, "is to help our restaurant customers make useful and agreeable discoveries without incurring great expense in terms of time or money."
The offer consists of a mixed case of two bottles of six different wines. There is also the promise of back-up stock for those who want to minimise cash-flow by ordering in small quantities.
The basic house wines include Yapp's own-label blend of red and white, a white and red Coteaux de l'Ardèche and a Tricastin red and a Rosé de Loire. The ex-vat trade price for the case is £34.
The better bottle offer, at £39, includes a white and red Saumur, an Anjou Chardonnay 1992, a Gamay de l'Ardèche and a Domaine de la Tour Signy 1994
The decorative bottle offer, at £170, is a box of gems. The white and red Hermitage, both 1991, from Chave have been praised by the most exacting critics. The 1993 Condrieu comes from George Vernay, one of the most highly regarded wine makers in this now intensely fashionable white wine region. The 1992 Côte-Rôtie from Robert Jasmin is a star in an already bright heaven. The Domaine de Trévallon 1992, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, from Baux in Provence is a new wine from the Old World that has captured the imagination of the whole world.
"There is hardly a three-star restaurant in France", Yapp reminds us, "that does not a sport an Eloi Dürrback Trévallon on their horridly expensive lists."
Finally in this offer, the Montlouis Grand Nobles 1990 from Michel & Laurent Berger is a rare sweet wine from one of the greatest of sweet wine years.