Offering tastes of the unexpected

Suppliers’ exclusive wines can give on-trade the edge

Offering a range which combines top-selling grape varieties with lesser known varietals is key.

OPERATORS’ quests to give their outlet a point of difference over competitors – and the take-home market – have been well-documented.

From food and live music to cask ale and world beers, licensees have adopted various strategies to help attract consumers out of their homes and make their bar or restaurant stand out from the crowd. But how many have considered using their wine offer to give their outlet the edge?
It seems those who haven’t could be missing a trick.
Wine is big business in Scotland, with Bibendum’s latest Insights: Scotland Market Report claiming the average spend on wine north of the border is 2% higher than the UK national average.

There has been more focus on entry-level wines so the wine in the bottle has to perform.

The study also highlights Scottish consumers’ tastes when it comes to wine, with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio deemed the most popular grape varieties, followed by Cabernet and Merlot, and then Tempranillo and Chardonnay.
The ranking of the varietals is perhaps no surprise. But suppliers contacted by SLTN last week say it shouldn’t necessarily be adopted as a blueprint for what operators should stock.
Stressing the importance of offering a combination of top-selling grape varieties and lesser-known varietals, wine merchants said they have the ranges and expertise to help licensees achieve the right blend for their outlet.
Jason Baillie, sales manager for Scotland at Bibendum, said the popularity of “fresh, crisp white wines” in Scotland could pave the way for operators to encourage consumers to broaden their wine horizons beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
“This opens up the door for grapes such as Picpoul and Albarino, which are becoming more and more popular,” he said.
“They work because they share a similar style to the likes of Pinot Grigio but offer more adventurous consumers something exciting and different to try.”
Claire Blackler, of Inverarity Morton, also advocated stocking some lesser-known varietals.
“What’s important now in wine choices is diversity and the need to be more experimental, steering away from Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio – although it’s still well up there – and bringing in the likes of Rose, Torrontes and Malbec,” she said.
“Pinot Grigio remains strong but yields in Italy were down 30% to 40% last year, meaning the 2012 vintage was poor in some areas and prices have escalated because of their relative scarcity.
“We’re making a conscious decision to look for wines that offer quality beyond their price point; this has forced us to look at slightly more unusual wines but we’ve discovered some incredible wines that we are confident will meet expectations.”
Other wine suppliers agreed that price and operators’ – and consumers’ – pursuit of value has impacted on wine choices.
Jon Harris, sales director for Scotland at Hallgarten Druitt, said there has been “real interest” in emerging regions and indigenous grape varieties.
“Indigenous varietals can offer a great price to quality ratio,” he said.
“Malbec and Primitivo have been two areas of interest and growth.”
Leslie Somerville at Enotria said while there has been a focus on more entry-level wines in its portfolio, it’s imperative that the wine in the bottle “performs”.
“A consumer will not work their way through a wine list if they feel the entry-level wine does not give them value for money,” he said.
“It’s about giving the customers choice and reviewing your offer to make sure it is set up for what you ultimately want from the wine category.”
Wallaces Express MD Brian Calder said the wholesaler has extended its wine range in a number of areas.
“We have increased the number of entry-level or house wine choices we have,” he said.
“Wallaces Express has also increased the number of wine agencies which we have exclusively for the Scottish trade.
“We are agents for Highfield Estate wines from New Zealand, and their Paua Sauvignon Blanc is a great example of a real quality wine at an excellent price point.”

We’ve discovered some incredible wines that offer quality beyond their price point.

The importance of wines which offer quality at a competitive price was underlined by Billy Bell at Wine Importers and Ian Cumming at Forth Wines. “The big mistake many on-trade outlets make is to go for the cheapest, almost undrinkable, wines they can get,” said Bell. “This simply alienates consumers who can’t afford to go out as often but when they do they want to enjoy a quality experience, which our wines deliver.”
Cumming said wine is increasingly viewed as a value for money product.
“The quality and price of your house offering or Pinot Grigio must be competitive and offer great quality at the price,” he said.

Image – Offering a range which combines top-selling grape varieties with lesser known varietals is key.