Art Meets Design in These Wine Menus

From punk rock lists to old school 'zines, these wine menus are breaking the barriers between sommeliers and guests with their unusual formats.
Photo by Maxi Simon

Every few weeks, June Rodil, MS, can be found with scissors in hand, surrounded by construction paper and piles of brightly hued pencils. She isn’t working on a scrapbooking project. She’s making an old school ’zine, and the finished product will double as a colorful wine list at June’s All Day in Austin, Texas.

“It gives me an opportunity to do little cartoons, or present a little more information than just looking at a list,” says Rodil, vice president of operations and beverage director for McGuire Moorman Hospitality group, which operates the wine bar/café.

Rodil’s crafty presentation is just one of a small but growing number of drink menus designed to make selecting a bottle easier—and, yes, more fun. From regional wine maps to illustrations of pop culture icons, these new-wave wine lists are designed to appeal to visual learners.

The trend started with Paul Grieco, a sommelier/restaurateur who shook up the wine world with a punk rock list showcased in a three-ring binder at his New York City wine bar, Terroir, in 2008.

Unusual formats and graphics break the ice between sommeliers and guests.

It was laden with scribbles, rough typefaces and rant-like essays. Rodil cites Grieco as an influence for her productions.

“I always admired his really big, Trapper Keeper-like wine list,” she says.

Unusual formats and graphics also break the ice between sommeliers and guests. Another top spot in Austin, Aviary Wine & Kitchen, likens wines to celebrities to break down what Beverage Director Alex Wheatley Bell calls the “intimidation factor.”

Redefining Wine Shop Design, Inside and Out

To give a point of reference and “immediately disarm the guest’s fears,” the wine list features caricatures of icons like rapper The Notorious B.I.G. to represent full-bodied wines that break the rules, and “Starman” singer David Bowie to identify innovative sparklers.

The list at Xixa, in Brooklyn, New York, also relies on well-known faces to convey the personality of its beverages. In this case, it highlights women who have earned a less-than-savory reputation: Scarlett O’Hara for “earthy, sensual” picks, Cleopatra for wines that are “powerful, structured, complex.”

Categories like these “give a playful way to begin exploring wine,” says Bell. It’s all about making wine accessible and relatable.

Published on January 16, 2019
Topics: Wine Menu Design
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of several cocktail books, including Shake.Stir.Sip. and NIGHTCAP: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, which debuts in September 2018. Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories