And range, visibility and staff training are all areas operators would be well advised to address, say suppliers.
“The beginning of the year is a good time to review a wine list, as this is when the new vintages and prices start to come through and suppliers are updating their offer,” said Gillian Lloyd, sales manager at Alexander Wines.
“Being a quiet time of year [operators] have time to turn their attention to their wine selection and review which wines have and haven’t sold well over the past twelve months.”
And Frances Bentley, wine development specialist at Matthew Clark, said January is “the perfect time to speak to your account manager about the requirements of the business and plans for the year to build the perfect list”.
With such a vast number of wines available, there can be a temptation to stock a large number in order to ensure all bases are covered.
However, the best lists are those that focus on quality, not quantity, according to Miriam Spears, sales director at Alliance Wine.
Spears said that, while the ideal number of wines will vary depending on the outlet, “numbers do not necessarily make a good list or a good selection”.
“What matters is the balance of styles and price points,” said Spears.
“For example, there is no point in having three Sauvignon Blancs on the list, all priced between £5 and £7 a glass.”
Choosing the right styles of wine for an outlet was said to be crucial, with established favourites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Rioja continuing to prove popular, as well as emerging varieties such as Picpoul and Albarino.
And with this year’s sports events expected to attract visitors from across the world, there may be more of an incentive to stock unusual and exotic wines.
“2014 is going to be huge for Scotland and foreign visitors will be looking for outlets where the wine offering is much more interesting and diverse than one just catering for our domestic market,” said Billy Bell, managing director of Wine Importers.
Sparkling wines were also said to be a key opportunity for the on-trade.
“Within the wine category, sparkling wine has shown strong growth over the past year and Prosecco is leading the growth of the sparkling wine segment in the UK,” said George Workman, managing director of Frizzenti.
As with any category, trial is key to encouraging consumers to try new wines, and operators were advised to offer as many wines by the glass as possible.
The beginning of the year is a good time to review a wine list.
“In terms of how many glasses a wine list should offer, that depends on the type of outlet, but a general rule for a pub would be a minimum of ten wines with six being available by the glass,” said Nick Tatham, spokesman for CWF.
“However, as many wines as possible should be offered by the glass so as to offer customer choice and encourage sensible drinking.”
The advice was echoed by Lee Barrie, of Australian wine importer Aussie Rules.
“Offering several wines by the glass allows an outlet to represent a number of countries or wine regions and varietals and so appeal to a broad range of customers,” he said.
Smaller glass sizes can also help encourage consumers to trade up, according to Jason Baillie, head of sales in Scotland at Bibendum Wine.
“Selling wine by the glass in smaller pours (ie 125ml) is a great incentive to try new, more expensive wines,” he said.
“Consumers are more likely to try new styles and varieties as they do not have the risk of buying a whole bottle of wine that they might not enjoy.”
Customers are unlikely to explore an outlet’s wine range if they are unsure what styles and varieties are available, and so it is crucial that the range is visible.
“Think about physically displaying the range behind the bar, use a simple chalkboard with your prices and create bespoke wine menus for the tables,” said Wallaces Express director Chris Cosh.
“Keep the messages simple. Include some basic wine information without going overboard and confusing customers.”
Visibility isn’t just driven by signage, however, and Damian Clarke, managing director of Freixenet, stressed the importance of making sure staff are knowledgeable about an outlet’s range.
“Ensure that staff understand the various wines on offer and prompt customers by educating them on wine types and advising them of offers on particular wines to encourage experimentation,” said Clarke.
But reviewing the product range, while important, is only the tip of the iceberg.
It is also possible to use wine as a marketing tool to attract customers into outlets during quieter periods.
“Things such as offering more premium wines by the glass at an attractive price and paired to seasonal dishes can work very well,” said Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton/Forth Wines.
“Themed wine evenings and also customer tasting events can also tempt consumers out of hibernation and deliver some footfall during the long dark cold nights.”
And moving forward, it seems there will be plenty of opportunities to grow wine sales throughout the year.
Chris Ellis, commercial director for wines at Pernod Ricard UK, said operators should create “a sense of theatre” around key dates such as Mother’s Day and Easter, “especially as there is a potential increase in footfall during these occasions, so licensees have the perfect opportunity to drum up some excitement, attract people into their establishments, and encourage them to trade up”.