Wine lovers ill-served by Michelin, Decanter says

  • Tuesday 6 March 2007

The Michelin Guide may be world-renowned for its knowledge of fine dining but it does very little for wine lovers, Decanter magazine says.

In an article in the latest issue of Decanter (out Wednesday 7 March), restaurant reviewer Brian St Pierre asks, ‘Do [the Guides] do justice to wine?’

And he concludes, after a survey of UK restaurants and their respective Michelin awards, that the Guide – ‘ironic…considering their place of origin’ – does not properly take wine into account.

‘I don’t think they care about wine much,’ one restaurateur says, while Guide chief Jean-Luc Naret and UK editor Derek Bulmer argue, ‘it’s always been important’.

St Pierre reckons that Michelin’s new symbols of a glass (to signify a restaurant that does wine by the glass) and a bunch of grapes (to show a ‘particularly interesting wine list’) are arbitrarily awarded.

‘Even starred restaurants like the River Café, with a superb Italian list, or Tamarind, with a list that complements sophisticated modern Indian cooking, merely get a wine glass while the mediocre lists at the Wolseley, Rules and Inn on the Park are elevated to bunches of grapes.’

By the same token, St Pierre continues, restaurants that have scaled down their lists, or indulge in ferocious mark-ups, still get to keep or are awarded stars.

The writer’s point is that Michelin simply does not recognise brilliantly-thought out and reasonably-priced wine lists.

It is natural, he says, that is three-star establishment is going to have a massive and pricey five-star wine list.

But what should be rewarded are restaurants like Soho’s Arbutus, with its list of ‘less than 100 [wines], mainly lesser-known, but available in 250ml carafes, and keenly priced.’

If you want to know what’s happening to restaurant wine, St Pierre says, whether it’s mark-ups by the bottle or by the glass, ‘don’t ask the Michelin man…’

The May issue of Decanter is out tomorrow, Wednesday 7 March. Subscribe now and save up to 30%

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