And while an uplift in sales across all drinks categories is expected at this time of year, it seems wine is in line to perform particularly well in the coming weeks as consumers descend on bars, restaurants and hotels for office Christmas dinners, festive nights out with friends and family get-togethers.
The anticipated increase in footfall – and food sales – means it’s vital operators have a comprehensive range in place if they are to maximise sales.
A good wine supplier should hold sufficient stocks to cover customer demand, even when it is ‘last minute’.
And wine suppliers and wholesalers contacted by SLTN last week said although much planning and ordering for the festive season is completed in advance, they are fully stocked and ready to deal with additional requests and top up orders in the coming weeks.
Ian Cumming, commercial director at Inverarity Morton, which last month bought Forth Wines, said operators’ approaches to Christmas ordering can be “very varied”.
“Some customers are stocked up well in advance depending on the level of their Christmas bookings; others are more ad hoc and look for frequent deliveries and top-ups,” he said.
“As a wholesaler we always have to prepare for the unexpected as customers can be taken by surprise by large parties ordering unexpected quantities of certain wines.
“We are prepared to respond quickly to any set of circumstances.”
Billy Bell, managing director of Wine Importers, said his firm is braced to deal with additional requests next month.
“We receive many new enquiries from operators at this time of year who are looking for a good wine producer’s name to feature on their lists,” he said.
“There is no doubt that if you list names like Antinori, Masi, Torres, Guigal and Yalumba your festive offering will attract in better spenders, especially with the economy looking up.
“Our main concern is to ensure that customers get what they need when they need it, which is why our centrally-based warehouse in Livingston carried over £1.3 million worth of wine stock, delivered by our own fleet of vans.”
Paul Graham, general manager at Alexander Wines, said forward planning is “more crucial than ever” for the supplier as a growing number of operators place “last minute” orders.
“Although we encourage customers to stock up at the start of December, we still expect customers to take advantage of our next day delivery service and top up through the month,” he said.
It’s a pattern Wallaces TCB boss Brian Calder also expects to see emerge.
Acknowledging that most operators will have their festive wine ranges in place by now, Calder said flexibility is key in the coming weeks as the supplier deals with additional requests.
“As you would expect, wine ordering increases at this time of year,” he said.
“Most customers will buy in a stock order in advance, and will then top up from their wholesaler as required.
“However, increasingly, cash flow has an impact on advance purchases and a good wine wholesaler must hold sufficient stocks to cover customer demand, even when it is ‘last minute’.”
In terms of the big sellers this Christmas, Champagne and sparkling wines are again expected to perform well.
“We see a major increase in account base sales of Champagne with a 98% increase during December 2012 versus an average month outside of the festive period,” he said.
“In addition to this, sparkling wine sales grew by over 92% within the same period last year.
“Both product categories also dramatically increased their share of our total sales during this time and this pattern reflects a trend we have seen over the last few years, despite the economic conditions.”
David Sutherland, MD of Wick-based wholesale firm Sutherland Brothers, also expects to see an uplift in sales of sparkling wine, especially Prosecco, over the next few weeks.
Pinot Grigio is also selling well, he said, followed by Sauvignon Blanc.
“Classics such as Chablis, Rioja and Bordeaux wines also sell well at this time of year,” added Sutherland.
The growing popularity of Prosecco was also highlighted by Graham at Alexander Wines.
“In addition to this, fresh, unoaked styles of white wine, such as Gavi, Albarino and Picpoul have seen impressive growth,” he said.
Ian Cumming at Inverarity Morton highlighted the importance of matching wines to festive food.
“We work with a lot of our customers to pair wines with their Christmas menus, which appeals to consumers as it removes the decision making and gives them something different to try,” he said. “We have seen an increase in sparkling Moscato from Australia and are also selling greater quantities of Malbec to complement steak.”