Given the ever increasing press coverage and booming sales, we caught up with our Operations Director Tom to get under the skin of what’s hot in the wine trade this Christmas and looking into 2016.
So, Tom, we’ve seen the recent press – national Prosecco shortages, record Champagne sales and some serious activity amongst the UK’s major players in the wine industry. What’s driving this recent boom?
“We’ve certainly seen the wine industry grabbing national headlines in recent weeks and months, whether it be Majestic dropping the half case rule, Accolade’s acquisition of Matthew Clark, or this summer’s brief panic relating to Prosecco shortages. We see operators placing more emphasis on wines in both fine dining restaurants and trendy pop up shacks.
It’s hard to pinpoint what is driving the attention, but we certainly feel some of those long held misconceptions about the complicated, stuffy wine world are bring knocked down by consumers more willing than ever to experiment and spend on new wines to share with friends. Across international markets this trend continues. I spoke with one of our partners in Japan recently who raved about recent research showing 7% of the population drink wine each and every day. That’s a huge market to play for!
In the UK, 2015 will be remembered as the year Prosecco sales first overtook Champagne on a like-for-like basis, though Champagne sales still grew. For my money, that’s a great indication that, with the recession in the rear view mirror, consumers are willing to part with more money if you’ve got the right brands to tempt them.”
Given this buoyancy across the on-trade, and with consumers more prepared than ever to experiment and spend on wine, what are your top tips for operators?
“I recently read Pub & Bar Magazine’s annual Wine Report, which collates opinion and data from consumers. 37% of consumers wanted to see food and wine pairing suggestions; 34% wanted the option to choose from a variety of serving sizes; and many wanted to see more English, organic and lesser known wines on the menu. That research gives operators a fascinating insight. I’d certainly be looking to have a few ‘unusual’ options on my list. There are some really interesting wines from regions like Greece, Lebanon, and Brazil, and I’d offer a few by the taste or by the glass to tempt consumers away from the old stalwarts.
We’ve all read of the boom in fizz sales so I’d certainly have a few options available—perhaps a Prosecco, Brut NV, and a Rosé. If you’re feeling adventurous (and festive), maybe a Prestige Cuvee or Vintage option available by the glass. Our amazement never ceases at how much consumers are willing to spend on a glass or flute if you give them the opportunity.
Obviously of paramount importance when offering an extended range is that your teams are comfortable explaining the provenance of these wines–what do they taste of, what can I compare them to, what do they go well with? I’m always a sucker for a sincere recommendation delivered with a smile!”
If you were running a bar over this busy festive period, what campaigns would you implement to maximize your wine sales?
“First of all, I’d capitalize on the celebratory mood by upping my fizz-by-the-glass options. We have a few customers who serve flutes of their house Champagne from Magnums—guaranteed to generate a buzz and spin off sales from other customers who want in on the action. If you’re offering Christmas menus, then perhaps offer a food and wine pairing. Many of us only eat Turkey once a year and have no idea what to pair it with. It could as simple as offering a Chardonnay or a Zinfandel, both a great match and something for all tastes. These tips are simple to implement and practically guaranteed to drive overall wine sales.
Lastly I’d have a few desert wines and ports on show. It’s that time of year when we all indulge in a pudding or cheese we might otherwise skip. These give you a great opportunity to engage with the customer around wine beyond the main meal.”
Looking ahead to 2016, how do you see the wine trade evolving? Any top tips?
“On a recent trip to New York, our International team were struck by just how quickly the market for Organic and Bio-Dynamic wines has grown. In almost every Williamsburg wine bar, there was an emphasis on these wines, and that’s a trend I see filtering to the UK in the months ahead. 17% of those surveyed by the Wine Report would like to see more organic wines on menus, so there’s demand already bubbling away. Similarly, there’s a change taking place across the wine trade which many aren’t aware of yet: winemakers are bringing the alcohol content down in their wines. There’s a whole swathe of reasons for this step-change—climate change forcing wine makers into cooler climates, changing tastes in food and rumored higher taxation for higher alcohol wines to name a few. One thing is for sure, I expect to see a lot more wines around the 12% ABV mark on wine lists in the months ahead.
My final comment is be prepared to experiment. You’ll be amazed by how open customers are to new experiences and how much extra they’ll pay for a glass of something they really love. That’s a sure-fire way to boost wine sales in your business!”