Your wine list and the people serving it could make or break your business. We take a look at the biggest tipple trends that have got people supping and how you can best capitalise on the nation’s thirst for wine.
The UK wine and spirit industry is said to be worth £50bn in economic activity, with £10.4bn in the on trade making up a hefty chunk of this figure. According to stats from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association in 2016, 60% of the adult population are wine consumers, amounting to £10.9bn of sales that are there for the taking.
Your wine offering is an integral part of the hotel experience and keeping up with the latest blends, popular tipples and learning how to capitalise on wine throughout the peaks and troughs of trading will be crucial.
“A good wine list holds a wealth of potential for boutique hotels,” says Jane O’Mahony, general manager at Manchester’s Princess Street Hotel. “The opportunity to upsell to customers, demonstrate a solid knowledge and cement a reputation as a quality hotel is vast – by getting the wine list right, you can make a real impact on customer sentiment as well as sales.”
As we head into summer, lighter wines are finding favour with consumers and people look to sup in the sunshine. Jack Merrylees from Majestic Wine says that sales of wines from new regions, such as Portugal and Eastern Europe are starting to pick up pace, while old favourites like New Zealand whites, Prosecco and Malbec are still big players in the market.
“Our bestselling red wine at Majestic Retail comes from Lisbon and is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelão, Tinta Miúda – hardly household names!” Merrylees says. “We often say that if you’d have told us at Majestic 10 years ago our most popular red would be from Portugal, we’d have laughed you out the building. Rosé is another great example, as pale blends from the South of France are having a huge pull.”
The insatiable thirst for Prosecco and Prosecco-based cocktails in the UK demonstrates how influential younger consumers are when it comes to shaping the market; Brits are now said to quaff over a third of the entire annual production of the Italian product. According to Vinexpo, Prosecco sales are set to outgrow all other types of sparkling wine, increasing by over 36% over the next five years. And younger consumers are a huge driving force of this.
“There’s certainly some evidence for a ‘drink less, but better’ movement within younger consumers,” says Olivia FitzGerald, managing director of Majestic Commercial. “The ‘foodie’ generation are also more interested in wines and pairings – which is really exciting for the hospitality trade.”
Nailing your wine list can be tricky, depending on your size and requirements. If you are a destination hotel it’ll be easier to judge volumes, whereas if you rely on fluctuating footfall levels, catering for all tastes may prove difficult. An extensive wine list will help to build your reputation as an expert in the sector but pages and pages of variety may be daunting for others and put people off.
“A short but interesting list would be my advice,” says Simon Taylor from Stone, Vine & Sun, “including at least a few organic and / or bio-dynamic wines. To keep the list fresh that some selections which would change with the seasons, i.e. more rosé and lighter reds in summer.
“I despair when I go out to eat at a brilliant restaurant, with really interesting cooking, and am presented with a list collated by a box ticker: Pinot Grigio, Sancerre, Chablis and Cape Chenin Blanc, followed by Chilean Merlot, Argentine Malbec and Australian Shiraz. People don’t come to a boutique hotel for a chain experience – they want novelty, excitement and discovery: try Slovenian Rebula or Falanghina from the Campania, Chilean Carmenère or Piedmont Barbera.”
Realistically your wine list won’t matter if staff on hand to help aren’t au fait with what’s on offer. Education is key and making sure your staff are comfortable and confident in explaining your wine list, and the key difference pricing makes.
“If the staff recommending the wines aren’t 100% sure of what they’re saying, how can the customers be?” explains FitzGerald. “Incremental increases can lead to big results, so if for instance your team on the floor know why a Chablis is a much better wine pairing than a generic Chardonnay – you’ll see it translate to the bottomline. It’s why we offer WSET training through our commercial operation.
FitzGerald continues: “With such huge diversity in the category, there’s an exciting opportunity to be at the cutting edge – showcasing the ‘next big thing’ before the off-trade has even tasted it. People will be prepared to splash out if they think there’s going to be a story to tell, and stories are key to wine! The English Sparkling wine movement is a good example of this.”