I have visited Chez Panisse once, 20 years ago. It was a time when California wines were powerful – large, brash and heavily alcoholic. Chardonnay for white and cabernet sauvignon, along with zinfandel, for red were the varieties to make your name from. I remember the restaurant taking a different approach. There were European wines from unheralded areas. There were American pinot noirs and bottles from Rhône varieties, then a rarity.
Looking at the list today, it is still fantastic: understated and concise; full of quirks but with enough classics to reassure. It is pretty much perfect in reflecting the ethos of the restaurant, which is what the finest wine lists do.
Balance is also essential. In the past I have made the mistake of choosing 50 of my own favourite wines for the Tate restaurants, only to find they were not what customers knew or wanted. For every obscure northern-italian white, great lists must include a chablis or sancerre.
Here are three bottles from regions or grapes that are exciting sommeliers at the moment.