Are Wine Lists Too Pretentious?

Wine experts across the country weigh in whether wine lists should remain elevated, or should be simplified

On the heels of news that closed elBulli will be auctioning off wines from its 139-page wine list, the debate continues: are wine lists today too pretentious for the average consumer? 

The New York Post's restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo kicked off the debate with his column, and argued that confusing wine lists that leave diners stumped have taken all the pleasure out of a glass of wine with dinner. Some Greek and French restaurants in New York, like Brooklyn's Reynard, have over-the-top wine lists that even the most seasoned vinos have trouble with. It usually occurs "when a restaurant sets out to prove a point with its “wine program,” a strategy that results in a list that’s 100-percent inscrutable," writes Cuozzo.

Naturally, the New York Times' Eric Asimov jumped in: " Must a restaurant offer bottles that even the most timid diner will recognize? Or can a wine list reflect a restaurant’s best conception of itself, no matter how unconventional?" he writes. Asimov concluded that restaurants should feel free to offer unconventional lists, as long as they can explain in simple terms what they are — and diners should feel free to ask. 

And the wine director of Renard (which was singled out by Cuozzo),  Lee Campbell, defended her wine list on a sommelier podcast, Eater reports. Calling Cuozzo like an "old curmudgeon," said they don't let the consumer dictate what should, and shouldn't be on a wine list. 

Want to know where you should dine and wine, then? Easy: this month's Wine Spectator breaks down the country's best wine programs in its 2012 Restaurant Wine List Awards. Nearly 3,000 restaurants took home an award: so you'll know where go order your glass next.