The Grapevine

Luke Richardson is a sommelier who has worked in a range of venues across the UK. In his column for SLTN he shares his thoughts on all things wine-related and answers your questions about wine. If you have a question for Luke email it to

Luke Richardson

HELLO again all!

As we are now finally moving into a phased opening up period, I thought I would continue with some slightly more premium options that may entice your customers to spend a little more money, and hopefully make the long road to recovery a little shorter.

Last time I talked mainly about sparkling and white wines, so it follows to talk about reds and possibly some stickies this time around. A key thing to point out here is that it is important to get good examples of these more premium wines, not just that they have a famous and identifiable name on the label.

For medium to full-bodied wines, I wouldn’t recommend anything after the 2017 vintage,  and it is definitely worth asking your suppliers about how accessible the fruit is in any wine you hope to buy.

There are literally hundreds of options here, so I’m just going to recommend a few areas for both medium and full-bodied reds.

For medium-bodied reds, the Barbera grape, originally from Piedmont in northern Italy can offer both luxury and value at the slightly higher price point – think around £10 + VAT for a good example – I would look for one from either Alba or Asti. It also has a bit of juicy acidity to it, making it a great partner to simple foods whilst being incredibly moreish and easy enough to drink on its own. One to target to your regular Merlot drinkers! Another great, and in-vogue, option would be Bierzo reds, made from the Mencia grape in north west Spain. More elegant than Barbera, with finely grained tannins and a very attractively aromatic nose, a good one is around £12 + VAT.

For full-bodied reds, I would investigate well known appellations – Crozes-Hermitage, Rioja Reserva, Chianti Classico and the like – always remembering about that bit of bottle age and quizzing your supplier about how the wines are drinking. I invariably ask for a sample.

Slightly off the beaten track, I would look at slightly more premium southern Italian reds – the quality is really going up year on year. Grapes to look for would be Nero d’Avola, Primitivo and Aglianico. Whilst you can find examples for around £6 + VAT, if you go up to the £10 + VAT mark you really start to find some gems. Remembering that 3 x cost price (ex VAT) = 60% GP, and 4 x cost = 70% GP, I would think somewhere in the middle would be about right, for the right wine. Also remember that getting that extra little bit off the cost price will only go to serve you well, and if you don’t ask, you surely won’t get!

Lastly, I would recommend getting a mediumly good dessert or fortified wine on by the glass – a Port, a Banyuls, a Muscat, whatever you think works for your establishment. That extra few pounds on the bill will soon add up!

I wish you all good and prosperous times to come, we all know it has been long enough. Next time, back to a more normal format. Until then, good luck!