Balancing wine inventory can be a challenge for every restaurateur. Your restaurant needs to stock its best sellers, but you also want some more interesting wines on your wine list. Many consumers are wary of trying a wine that they don’t know, yet restaurant industry trends show that when people feel more educated about wine, they spend more on it.

How do you teach staff to sell more wine as a server and expose your diners to your wine without opening bottles to offer tastes?

One trick is to add wine flights to your menu. Wine flights are generally 2-3 ounce pours of wine, served with 3 or 4 glasses poured together. For guests, a wine flight is a low-risk way to try new wines.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas for curating interesting wine flight menus.

charcuterie board with glass of wine

Pick a theme.

Think about a wine flight as an educational opportunity and pick a theme with the idea of teaching guests about a particular varietal. When people taste a wine side by side, it helps them compare and gives them a better idea of what that wine’s characteristics are, what makes a wine unique. Think about doing a Sauvignon Blanc tasting and choosing one bottle from New Zealand, one from California and one from Sancerre. Same grape, very different wines.  

Highlight new bottles.

If you’ve been bringing in new and exciting bottles, introduce people to them through a wine flight. Train restaurant staff in the wines so they can talk about them, or think about printing out little-tasting notes. This has the added bonus of helping people remember what they tasted and like for their next visit.

Explore a region.

Many people can be intimidated by a wine list and only order from major wine growing regions with names they recognize, such as Napa Valley, Chianti or Bordeaux. They are missing out though, as the wine growing world is vast and many regions are exporting delicious wine. Think about having a flight of wines just from Chile or just from Spain. Perhaps you can do a white, a rosé, a red and a dessert wine. This is also a fun opportunity to have seasonal menu dishes inspired by the region.

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Staff picks.

As your regulars get to know your staff, bartender or wine director, they grow to trust their recommendations. Think about having someone on your staff pick the wines for a flight. They can come up with a theme, or just pick their favorites. Perhaps they even make suggestions from the menu for pairing ideas.

Think about a wine flight as an educational opportunity.

Let your restaurant menu ideas guide the flight.

Rather than leading with the wine, let your menu dictate the flight. Put together a flight that would pair well with a full meal. Perhaps a sparkling wine to pair with the appetizer course, and fuller bodied choice for the entree, and a dessert wine with dessert.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you decide on your wine flight menu, but that you use it to introduce your guests to new items from your wine list. By broadening their horizons, and making them more confident in ordering, you’ll see your wine sales take off.

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.