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’re seeing operators placing more of an emphasis on wines – whether in fine dining restaurants or trendy pop up shacks. It’s hard to pinpoint what is driving the attention and but we’re certainly getting a feeling that some of those long held misconceptions about the complicated, stuffy wine world are bring knocked down with consumers more willing than ever before to experiment and spend to find new wines they can share with friends. Across international markets this trend continues – I was speaking with one of our partners in Japan recently and was raving about recent research which shows that 7% of the population drink wine each and every day – that’s a huge market to play for! Closer to home, in the UK, 2015 will be remembered as the year that Prosecco sales first overtook Champagne on a like for like basis – albeit Champagne sales still grew in that period. For my money that’s a great indication that, with the recession now in the rear view mirror, consumers are willing to part with a little more if you’ve got the right brands to tempt them with”
Given this buoyancy across the on-trade and with consumers seemingly more prepared than ever to experiment and spend on wine when they’re out what are your top tips for operators?
“I read an interesting piece in Pub & Bar Magazine recently, their annual Wine Report which collates opinion and data from consumers. When asked what they’d like to see more of in pubs and bars 37% 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 and 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 be tempted to 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, Rose and if you’re feeling adventurous (and with the Festive spirit in the air) maybe a Prestige Cuvee or Vintage option available by the glass. We never cease to be amazed by 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 recommendation delivered with sincerity and a smile!”
If you were running a bar over this busy Festive period what sort of campaigns would you be looking to implement to maximise your wine sales?
“First of all I’d be capitalising 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 a Christmas menu/s then perhaps look at offering a food and wine pairing option. Many of us only eat Turkey once a year so have no idea what to pair it with – it could as simple as offering a Chardonnay or a Zinfandel option, both a great match and something for all tastes. These tips are simple to implement and practically guaranteed to drive up 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 that we might otherwise skip and these give you a great opportunity to engage with the customer around wine beyond the main meal.”
Lastly, looking ahead to 2016, how do you see the market 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 that I see filtering through 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 world which many aren’t aware of yet and that’s winemakers 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 rumoured 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 would be; 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 the really love – that’s a sure-fire way to boost wine sales in your business!”