Despite the slow start to the Scottish summertime, wine suppliers say lighter wines have been proving most popular in Scotland’s pubs and bars.
White wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are still said to be popular with customers, but suppliers say drinkers are increasingly looking to try something new and different.
Sophie Birbeck, wine development specialist at Matthew Clark, said operators should continually review menus to reflect drinking trends.
“Most of our customers look to change their wine lists to reflect new trends in the market and update their offer,” said Birbeck.
“There is often a move to list lighter styles of wine to reflect warmer weather.
“Some customers choose to market these with a ‘wine of the season’ offering which allows more flexibility and the ability to food match with a summer menu to drive sales.”
Birbeck claimed there has been a spike in sales of Albarino this year, and said lighter styles of red wine such as Pinot Noir and Malbec are still going strong.
She attributed sales increases to customers becoming more informed about wines.
“More traditional red varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz aren’t selling as well as consumers follow the trends and general knowledge of wines increases,” she said.
At drinks distributor Continental Wines & Food (CWF), Amy Ledger, marketing manager, reckons the interest in sparkling wines will continue.
“We anticipate key trends for this summer will include unusual blends and upmarket Proseccos with sparkling wines as it continues to buck the trend, with substantial growth this quarter,” said Ledger.
She added that there is an opportunity for operators to make the most of warmer conditions and advised them to speak to their wine merchant.
She said: “Take time to speak to your suppliers, who can provide recommendations of new wines suited to the warmer weather conditions.
“There are some wonderful wines out there at the moment that are particularly suited for the warmer summer weather.”
Gillian Lloyd, sales manager of Alexander Wines, said an improvement in the economy was leading to customers becoming more experimental with their wine choices.
She said: “During the worst of the recession wine drinkers tended to play safe and were reluctant to experiment outside their comfort zones.
“There are signs now that with more consumer confidence customers are becoming more adventurous and willing to experiment with new varietals and styles.”
Not all customers will trade up on their own, however.
Jim Rowan, managing director of Dunns Food and Drinks, said sometimes it falls to expert staff to encourage consumers to leave their comfort zones.
“In our experience [customers] will stick to what they know and occasionally add to it,” said Rowan.
“However, a customer will try a different wine or varietal if encouraged so our advice is to let a customer taste before they buy – light marketing should kick-in so operators should make sure their staff are knowledgeable about the wines they are selling.”
Staff knowledge is absolutely essential to helping customers discover new wines, said Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton.
He said front of house workers are well placed to influence the customer and generate increased sales.
“Consumers are a lot more confident now than they were ten years ago but people remain creatures of habit in that they tend to go back to something that’s both familiar and trusted,” said Sigouin.
“There’s a lot that staff can do to influence the purchase.
“Where staff are trained to upsell, you often find that people will go for a wine they never would have ordered left to their own devices and they are almost always pleasantly surprised.
“Suddenly they are drinking Viognier instead of Pinot Grigio, or Gruner Veltliner instead of Sauvignon Blanc, and telling all their friends about it too.”
Offering attractively-priced alternatives to popular wines is another good way to encourage customers to experiment, according to Lloyd, of Alexander Wines.
“There are opportunities for [outlets] to encourage customers to trade up, increasing profit and revenue,” she said.
“This can be done by ensuring that the most popular varietals are not the first and cheapest wines on the list and also by offering interesting alternatives at attractive price points.”
In the summer months, suppliers expect sales of sparkling wines and Champagnes to increase, but they also see an opportunity for operators to capitalise on the demand for hybrid wine and Champagne cocktails.
Sigouin, of Inverarity Morton, also pointed to the importance of high-end glassware and ice buckets during warm weather.
He said: “Champagne cocktails are a staple on any good cocktail list: your Kir Royales, Bellinis etc just don’t date.
“Making sure rosé and sparkling wine is served in nice ice buckets and with premium glassware ensures that more consumers are tempted to try a bottle of wine on a hot day.”
Birbeck, of Matthew Clark, acknowledged that times have been tough for some Scottish operators following the introduction of the lower drink drive limit.
But she said there were other ways of boosting sales.
“By building on trends for quality wines, more by the glass options and guiding consumers through wine lists with style options and food matches it’s possible to balance the volume dip by selling more premium wines to increase sales,” said Birbeck.