Everybody may agree on the concept that the role of a sommelier is to guide you through the wide and wild world of wines and vines. This is loud and clear. But there is a way to bring this idea one step further. That’s what Taylor Parsons, wine director at Republique, West Hollywood LA, does everyday with his “daily wine list”. We are not talking about a small list of wines by the glass which changes depending on the availability and the cellar stock, Republique wine list is composed by a selection of 75 labels that Parsons personally adjust everyday like the chef does with the food menu.
“Think at the moment when you are browsing in a 20 pages wine list and you dread somebody will ask if you need any help… This is my starting point, to make my customers life easier and to guide them through new labels and grapes with a daily selection”.
Republique cellar is stocked with more than 2,000 wines. But when handed the wine list at the table, guests don’t really know that. What you see is a one-page list of 75 selections—most of which are probably very different from the last time you visited the restaurant.
This goes totally against the concept that the quality of a wine list is determined by its weight (literally) and its length.
Some sommeliers in U.S, like Parsons, have taken this path, to propose a list that changes daily based on what’s on the menu or what they’d like to highlight.
When République opened almost three years ago, the idea was that Parsons would curate a new, one-page wine list from the cellar each day based on the season and the daily market menu (which is à la carte, as opposed to a tasting menu) from chef Walter Manzke.
There is an inscription at the bottom of the wine list that reads, OUR LIST CHANGES DAILY. SPEAK WITH A SOMMELIER TO DISCUSS OFF-LIST SELECTIONS!
What Parsons quickly realized was that by inviting guests to inquire about wines that might not be featured, he could get them to talk with him about what they were looking for, or at least venture outside their comfort zone.
This is the second advantage of the daily wine menu: it encourages the interaction between sommelier and customers, pushing the latter to get to know new and different wines, to think out of the box.
“We really want people to get out of the mode of ‘I only drink this one thing. I only want this one thing.’ We try to force their hand with cues,” says Parsons. “It’s an important statement to not have three or four cabernets on [the] list right now. We still have it, but the cue is that you should be drinking other stuff.” This “other stuff” happens to be wines that complement the food at that moment exceptionally well, rather than simply a survey of all of the wines that live in the cellar”.
And this is what really happens at Republique if you trust the talent and the professionalism of Taylor Parsons. You go in with your idea and you end up drinking a totally different wine. But you are grateful, because you got to know something new. Because you had a real gourmet experience.