THE clocks have gone forward, spring is in the air and warmer weather – although not guaranteed – seems within reach.
It’s a time when many operators traditionally take stock of their business and make any necessary tweaks ahead of the summer months.
And while food is often the first port of call in which to reflect the change in seasons, with salads and sea bass taking over where stews and steak pie left off, it seems refreshing an outlet’s wine offer is just as important.
Suppliers contacted by SLTN said spring is a key time to ring the changes when it comes to wine – and advised adopting a similar strategy to that taken with the food offer.
Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, said regardless of the weather there is a “definite shift in consumers’ behaviour and palates” as the days stay lighter for longer.
“Restaurants bring out new menus in line with the changing seasons and it’s typically a move towards lighter, fresher dishes so the wine list needs to reflect that,” he said.
“After many years of often finding it hard to battle against the ever-popular Pinot Grigio, we have found some really encouraging trends emerging this year, with customers starting to get very interested in lesser-known varietals. Fresh and zingy wines like Sauvignon Gris from the Langeudoc and Verdejo from Spain are gaining a lot of interest, and dry but aromatic wines like Viognier and Torrontes are also finally getting some traction.”
Leslie Somerville, director of sales for Scotland at Enotria, underlined the importance of reflecting the seasons in an outlet’s wine offer.
“You see more weightier reds and whites on lists during the shorter days and colder weather,” said Somerville.
“Spring allows you to assess what has worked and also inject more aromatic wines into your range.
“I don’t think a complete overhaul is required but offering a range of wines that ties in to your developing food menu and pushing the boundaries on what grapes you list gives more to your customers and can give you the edge against competitors.”
And it’s not just styles of wine that can help an outlet stand out from the crowd.
Billy Bell, managing director of Wine Importers, said having some well-known producers on a list can pay dividends.
“We receive many new enquiries from operators at this time of year who are looking for good well-recognised producers’ names to feature on their lists which undoubtedly helps to sell wine,” said Bell.
“There is no doubt that if one lists names like Antinori, Masi, Torres, Guigal and Yalumba, the wine list offering will attract in better spenders, especially with the economy looking up.”
In terms of this summer’s big hitters, Paul Graham, general manager of Alexander Wines, conceded that Sauvignon Blanc’s popularity shows little sign of waning.
But he said there is growing consumer demand for less well known varietals.
“Sauvignon is still by far the most popular white variety, but consumers are also being encouraged to try varietal wines with similar flavour profiles, such as Verdejo, Picpoul and Albarino, which have all seen an increase in sales,” said Graham.
Nick Tatham, master of wine at Continental Wine & Food, said there are a number of wines which are “particularly suited” to warmer weather.
“The Terre di Passione range of varietal wines from the Veneto region are perfect for celebrating the arrival of ‘Primavera’ (or spring) as they are light, fresh and fruity,” said Tatham.
Matt Sullivan, business development manager at Alliance Wine, also flagged Italy, as well as Spain and eastern Europe, as producing some of the “most exciting” varietals.
“Verdejo is massive in Spain so it is plausible that it has all the components needed to become the next Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc as it sits neatly in the middle of the two in style,” he said.
“I still think there is some more mileage to be had from Fiano, too. And I think Cava will be one of the star performers this summer.”
Sullivan isn’t the only one who expects sparkling wine to prove popular in the coming months.
Damian Clarke, managing director of sparkling wine brand Freixenet, advised licensees to offer a “small but tailored” range of products.
“Operators are recommended to offer at least a Cava, Prosecco, Champagne and a sparkling rosé,” said Clarke.
“This can then be built into a list that offers at least three price ranges, styles and regions of origin respectively, which, in turn, gives the consumer range and choice.”