WHILE plenty of people could happily take or leave the mistletoe, what would Christmas be without wine?
Thanks in no small part to the wine suppliers servicing the Scottish on-trade a wine-less winter is not something any operator needs to worry about – and suppliers have offered plenty of advice on how to maximise sales this festive season.
Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, suggested that as food-led outlets change menus with the season, the same should apply to wine lists in the on-trade; and he said there are plenty of options to choose from.
“Typically, autumn/winter will see an increase in warming reds, things like Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and, from the south of France, Carignan and old vine Grenache,” said Sigouin.
“But my ultimate winter tip would be Château Fitere Madiran, made from Tannat – it’s a really full-bodied dark and intense wine perfect for slow-cooked beef, etc. It’s an area very famous in France relatively unknown in Scotland,” he said.
Miriam Spiers of Alliance Wines said presenting wine with confidence is key to boosting on-trade sales over Christmas.
“Be brave with the choices, don’t be shy with less well-known varietals or countries, but keep your wine list simple,” she said.
“Recommend with confidence and enthusiasm and put proper meaning into the descriptions.”
While colder weather can certainly enhance the appeal of warmer red wines, Spiers advised operators to ensure they adapt their white wine list for winter too.
“With so much more white wine being sold in the on-trade than red, publicans should not be shy to push structured, bolder whites in winter that still match up to their seasonal menus,” she said.
Paying close attention to all aspects of the wine offer was also highlighted as key to sales by John Chalmers of Enotria & Coe.
Chalmers said operators “no doubt spend a lot of time sourcing the best items for your food menu” or have taken a “keen interest in seeking out the latest gins and beers” and he argued that wine should be “no different”.
“It’s such a key part of the profit of the outlet,” said Chalmers.
“Wine can on the surface seem very complicated but it certainly doesn’t need to be. Wine is meant to be enjoyed and to add another level to the satisfaction of a meal.”
Christmas may present on-trade operators with a big chance to cash in, but chasing the season’s biggest trends is not necessarily the best way to go about it.
Typically winter will see an increase in warming reds.
Ensuring the wine offer is tailored to the outlet was flagged as a priority by Chalmers, who reckons it’s vital the wine list is the best it can be for both the venue’s budget and clientele.
“I don’t think it is as easy to say that any one grape or region will be the ‘next big thing’,” said Chalmers.
“If it’s right for you make Touriga Nacional your trend but at the same time if a great Chardonnay is what you need then this is what you should seek out – just make sure that what you are serving is the best you can for the budget you are working in and the customer you are aiming to see in your outlet.”
Echoing Spiers, Chalmers also recommended simplicity when it comes to presenting the wine menu, suggesting operators “keep things brief”.
Chalmers suggested that operators offering more unusual wines would do well to categorise these by style.
“[For example] a customer might not recognise Nero d’Avola but if it’s in the same section as Merlot then they might give it a try,” said Chalmers.
“In addition each wine benefits from having a concise tasting note – the customer is usually there to spend time with partners/family/friends, perhaps not to spend a good percentage of their time deciphering an overly complicated wine list.”
Verity Milns at Liberty Wines agreed that presenting customers with a wine list that’s arranged by style could open them up to trying new things this festive season.
“A good way to encourage customers to experiment is to arrange wines by style rather than by region or price, and it can help people move away from the tendency to stick to house wine or the second on the list,” said Milns.
To further drive on festive sales, Milns suggested operators try highlighting food matches or “even offering wine flights, which can enhance your list and boost sales”. But she said staff are fundamental to success.
“Having informed, well-trained staff who can help customers navigate your wine list is the first step to good wine service,” said Milns.