Is This the World’s Most Confusing Wine List?

Photo: R. Stewart/Courtesy LA Weekly

Rising sommelier and wine-rave-thrower Maxwell Leer has assembled a wine list at Culver City’s Hatchet Hall that Los Angeles Weekly critic Besha Rodell finds so horribly unreadable she decided to write a separate story explaining everything wrong with it. Eschewing helpful signifiers like red and white, Leer instead divides his list up by — um? — first names: Jerome, Michael, and Heather. A waitress tells Rodell that these are the names of the portfolio managers, which Rodell points out is totally useless to regular diners and not even that helpful to those within the wine world.

On this list, wines are typically described with a word — which, here, can be anything from the farm to the varietal to something incomprehensible to most, like a German wine style called “Kabinett Halbtrocken” — and the vintage year. The design of the menu, Leer says, was inspired by the historical menus in the back of an obscure 1915 book called Notes on a Cellar-Book. Take a look and see if you could have figured that out on your own:

More confusing than an Ikea pamphlet.
More confusing than an Ikea pamphlet. Photo: R. Stewart/Courtesy LA Weekly

Though Rodell doesn’t believe that Leer and his colleague Adam Vourvoulis intended to create something so awful, calling them “animated, enthusiastic, friendly and genuinely excited,” she describes the list variously as “a hostile document,” “the extreme of insider-y know-it-all-ism,” “a cruel joke,” “a failure of hospitality,” and “purposefully impossible” to read. Leer may have wanted the list to inspire conversations with guests — and Grub is usually all for any kind of wine list that breaks free from outdated language — but this particular list is more likely to simply breed confusion and contempt among diners:

The real bummer of it all, though, is that there’s apparently some great wine on that list — it’s just inaccessible without Leer and his staff, and even then what you drink isn’t really up to you. The world of wine is a notoriously wonky one, and people can even be afraid of something as simple as saying the names of producers and varietals for fear of mispronunciation. So when writing a wine list, it’s probably best to just write something that people can actually parse for themselves, if need be. Either that, or, as New York Times critic Pete Wells advises, go all in:


Is This the World’s Most Confusing Wine List?