Offer wine drinkers something special

Merchants urge operators to stock up on Champagne and sparkling wine


EVEN in this age of austerity, some consumers will be in the mood to indulge themselves this Christmas.

That’s why merchants are advising businesses to offer festive diners one or two options to ‘trade up’ on the wine list when they’re out for the family or staff night out in the coming weeks.
“It’s a great idea to include ‘treat yourself’ sections on your list – two whites and two reds in the £28-£39 price bracket which will appeal to those wanting to make a special occasion of a night out without having to buy the most expensive wine on the list,” said Leslie Somerville, regional sales manager at wine distributor Enotria in Scotland.
But though party-goers may be more flexible with their wallets at Christmas, Somerville said that it’s not really a time when consumers look to experiment when it comes to style.
Similar points were made by Frances Bentley, wine development specialist for Matthew Clark in Scotland.
“Having a variety of wines between £20 and £35 is still crucial, as customers continue to watch their outgoings,” she said, “but this is the time of year where those higher end spends are most likely to occur.
“Customers still want to be safe in this climate, however, so classics and familiar grapes are a good starting point when thinking about refreshing a wine list for the festive period.”
Perhaps predictably, merchants expect sales of Champagne and sparkling wine to peak in the coming weeks, given the traditional link between bubbles and celebration.
For that reason, Giles Cooke, marketing director at Alliance Wine, urged operators stock a broader range on that front.
Stating that it’s Prosecco that’s driving sparkling sales for Alliance, Cooke said: “We suggest increasing the range of sparkling wines over the festive period and offer them by the glass,” he said. “Everybody wants a treat and to feel special.”
Matthew Clark, which says around 60% of Champagne and sparkling wine sales occur in November and December, and reports a 21% increase in vintage Champagne sales this year, is gearing up to make the most of the opportunity, too. The wholesaler has just unveiled details of a Prestige Cuvee promotion it’s running this Christmas – customers who buy two bottles of Piper Heidsieck Rare Brut 2002, Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs or Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Brut will receive one bottle of the same product free.
But planning for Christmas isn’t just about stocking up on high-end wines.
With many operators electing to offer festive deals, incorporating meals and a bottle or glass of wine, Somerville said it’s important venues aren’t caught short on the supply front.
“Be prepared for parties of people,” he said. “Ask your wine supplier for options for wines not on your list which they can offer as part of a package.
“Then your supplier can set aside wines for this purpose and you don’t risk being caught without sufficient stock if you get some major party orders.”
And even if wine features in a festive package it shouldn’t be the cheapest available to the operator, according to Cooke at Beith-based Alliance.
“Quite a few places simply add the cheapest wine to the food package or offer discounts, however if this is all they do they might be missing a trick,” he said.
“Well matched wines that offer value, whatever the price point, will find followers and so we’d suggest that this is the time to try out new wines, premiumise and excite the consumer.”

Image – Many consumers will spend more on wine at Christmas, but not try out new styles, some say.