AFTER a promising start, it seems we could be in for a classic Scottish summer washout.
However, the recent soggy weather hasn’t dampened consumer demand for wine, according to suppliers, who reckon there are plenty of opportunities for operators to drive sales in the weeks ahead.
And while the category as a whole is said to be continuing to deliver a strong performance in the Scottish on-trade, there are certain ‘star performers’ operators should pay attention to.
“Sauvignon is still the big success story, consumers can’t seem to get enough of this grape variety,” said Gillian Lloyd, sales manager at Alexander Wines.
Consumers seem increasingly willing to experiment and trade-up.
“Pinot Grigio is still performing strongly. And in the reds Merlot is still the single most popular grape variety, with Malbec increasing greatly in popularity lately.”
Beyond these, consumers are said to be increasingly open to trying new and different varietals of wine, with encouraging signs that pricing is beginning to come second in many people’s eyes.
Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, said he has observed a shift amongst consumers, who are now more willing to experiment and trade-up to more premium wines.
This was echoed by Jon Harris, sales director in Scotland for Hallgarten Druitt & Novum, who said offering customers a “surprising and exciting [wine] list” is the “key to long-term category growth and profitability”.
With consumers becoming “increasingly adventurous”, it makes sense to stock some more unusual wines, according to Lloyd at Alexander Wines.
But she stressed that whilst the inclusion of more unusual wines is a good idea, operators should still keep their wine list simple, such as a “short list of up to ten whites and ten reds, plus rosé and fizz”.
As well as keeping the list relatively short and simple, licensees should ensure it is tailored to suit their venue’s clientele.
Sigouin at Inverarity Morton advised operators to “pitch your tasting notes right, so they reflect the tone and personality of the place”.
And both he and Harris at Hallgarten Druitt & Novum highlighted the potential power tasting notes hold as a selling tool.
Harris laid out a four-point approach that he believes will aid operators in creating informative and influential tasting notes.
Firstly, mention the grape/producer/region/country; secondly, give a “basic flavour profile”, such as dry, citrus or tropical, etc; thirdly, include an interesting fact about the producer/grape or the region the wine comes from; and, lastly, add in a couple of food pairings that suit the different varietals on offer.
Food and wine pairing dinners can be a popular and fun way of attracting consumers who are looking to increase their knowledge of wine and have an enjoyable evening at the same time, according to both Lloyd of Alexander Wines and Sigouin at Inverarity Morton.
Wine flights can also help operators attract more customers through their doors. Giles Cooke of Alliance Wine said that wine flights are great for “providing a wine experience that doesn’t daunt anyone and enhances the dining experience”.
Presentation is crucial when it comes to driving wine sales, suppliers said.
The importance of glassware in “delivering a good experience to customers” was highlighted by Lloyd at Alexander Wines, who said that “wine served in a fine glass tastes better and gives the impression of a more premium product”.
Taking a similar stance on the importance of presentation, Harris at Hallgarten Druitt & Novum added that the glasses do not need to be overly expensive, simply long-stemmed with a thin rim.
He also advised licensees to do their best to ensure decanters are used.
“I am a realist; in a busy bar/ restaurant on a Friday and Saturday it can be a challenge but if a guest is paying over £30/£40 for a bottle of wine they deserve a bit of care and attention,” said Harris.
The advice comes as suppliers warn the price of wine could be set to rise due to Brexit, with the increase expected to be felt across the industry in the autumn.
Lee Barrie of Aussie Rules said that Brexit has “obviously had a negative impact” on Sterling and, whilst many importers have a stock holding, once this runs out, Barrie reckons that as they replenish stocks and purchase at the current rates “this is when prices will increase”.