Mastering the Graphic Design of Your Wine List

When people think of designing wine lists, chances are they’re thinking about the decisions surrounding which wines appear on the list. This, indeed, is the most fundamental component of wine list design, and the most important.

But as a restaurateur, sommelier, or wine director, once you’ve decided which wines you’re going to offer for sale, you need to list them for your guests. Put them down on paper, so to speak.

And that’s when we get to the second part of designing a wine list. Namely figuring out what the list is going to look like in order that it be useful to your guests. A wine list is a written document with a very specific purpose and a very specific role to play in the guest experience.

And for that reason, design matters.

For the past six years, I have been a judge for the annual World of Fine Wine’s annual World’s Best Wine Lists Awards. The majority of the awards we hand out are focused on the contents of these wine lists, but one award focuses on their visual design. In recent years, thanks to my professional background in the design field, I have been responsible for shaping the criteria by which we judge the graphic design of wine lists.

This year, the organizers of the awards asked me if I would consider offering something of a seminar on the topic, and I was happy to oblige. They’ve now made that available for general public viewing, and so I thought I’d share it with you here.

They’ve entitled it a ‘master class’ in wine list design, but with a time limit of 30 minutes, it doesn’t really get past the basics. However, based on the thousands of wine lists entered in the awards each year (each one of which I personally review to assemble the shortlists for the design awards) most people could do with a brush up on the basics of wine list design.

I hope you find it helpful.

If you have questions or comments, I welcome them.