But, as summer approaches, the time is right for operators in the mood to be a little bolder with their wine selections.
At least that’s according to Forth Wines, the Milnathort-based wine and spirit merchant, which debuted several new additions to its portfolio at its packed annual tasting in March.
Commercial director Ian Cumming told SLTN that there are margins to be made by those who inject some life into wine lists in the coming months.
“The classics still work – people will always go for Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and crisp rose wines,” he said.
“But we have noticed people start to get interested in different styles, some of which are starting to get a bit of traction.
“Our focus this year is to sell more mid to premium level wines. It’s about value for money and quality and if you offer an Albarino or Viognier which do that I’m sure people will buy into it.”
And Cumming, who singled a Sauvignon Blanc from Portugal (Qunita de Chocopalha) and the Chocolate Box range from Australia as the stars from its recent tasting, said the way wine is packaged is also having an influence on sales, and should be borne in mind when summer lists are being compiled.
“We’re seeing some interesting wines from Portugal at the moment, including a fantastic Sauvignon,” he said.
“Portugal is not particularly well known for white wine but the Sauvignon has great presentation and really took the show by storm.
“The Chocolate Box wines, a range of Australian wines, are absolutely flying at the moment – they come in trendy, retro packaging but the quality of the liquid inside the bottle is great.
“Presentation is becoming important to the on-trade – it’s almost more of a retail concept, but we’re finding staff are selling more if they like the bottle. Of course, the quality of the liquid has to stack up as well.”
That operators should consider being a little more daring this summer was also suggested by Continental Wine & Food, the drinks importer, producer, bottler and distributor behind the Simply Yours single serve range.
As well as Pinot Grigio, it reckons it’s worth adding a wine or two based on the Vermentino grape variety to the choice on white, and varietals like Montepulciano, Valpolicella and Nero d’Avolo when it comes to red.
“Our advice is also to be adventurous with your wine choices,” said trading and marketing controller Vicky Lee.
“Most consumers are in your establishment as they want to escape the trappings of their everyday life and be treated to the quality of the experience you have on offer.
“They therefore do not wish to see mainstream brands on your list at, in their eyes, much inflated prices to the supermarket down the road.”
Yet for all that CWF dares operators to be different it insists the appeal of time-honoured favourites like rose should not be ignored – a point also made by Tarquin de Burgh, director of sales at Inverarity Morton.
“It’s funny but rosé is a wine that so often gets overlooked but there are some seriously well-made rosé wines out there, such as Les Ormes De Lagrane rosé from Bordeaux or Mourvedre rosé Consolation from souther France – a massive, rich and complete wine,” he said.
“So yes, rosé should feature on a summer wine list and if you haven’t got a quaffable Prosecco on there you need to add one!”
According to Michael Colquitt, sales manager for specialist wine wholesaler Enotria in Scotland, a “great summer list needs plenty of light white wines and affordable sparkling wine at a range of price points”.
“Italy is an obvious focus for both of these,” Colquitt told SLTN.
“We’ve recently introduced Pignoletto from Emilia Romagna, a brilliant alternative to the ubiquitous Prosecco, and the Ferrari classical method wines from the Trento region. These wines are serious contenders to Champagne without the price tag.”
And it’s not just wines from Italy that Enotria expects to make a splash this summer – it has high hopes for Spanish wines too, highlighting Ribeiro as “a good area for aromatic white wines” and reds such as Jumilla, Ribera del Duero and Priorat.
Meanwhile ViVAS, the wine arm of wholesaler 3663, developed in partnership with Bibendum, said stocking decisions should be influenced by the food a venue offers.
“A great summer list should reflect seasonal changes to the food menu,” said marketing manager Henry John.
“Many operators will be looking to barbecues as a way to encourage families and larger groups into outlets and providing wine matches is a sure-fire profit booster.
“Argentine wine has been very effective at promoting ‘Meat with Malbec’, its flagship grape variety. With juicy and gutsy flavours, Malbec makes the ideal partner to barbecued meat.”
Yet for all it’s important to strike the balance between red and white and match food with wine, a summer wine offer may not get off the ground without the staff to back it up.
At Forth, Cumming said training on-trade staff is as key to the merchant’s offer as selling the wine.
Forth is working closely with high-profile operators like Buzzworks in Ayrshire and Saltire Taverns in Edinburgh and according to Cumming the results are clear to see when staff believe in the wine themselves.
“If staff are selling an Albarino and get behind it the difference is incredible,” he said. “It’s keeping it simple – if you let a consumer feel like they’ve discovered their own special wine, they take ownership of it. From a supplier point of view, we really have to work with the staff on the wine we’re selling.”
De Burgh at Inverarity Morton added: “Investing in staff training can make a big difference as staff can directly influence spend if they are confident enough in their delivery.”