Tastings Trade Blog

On-Premise Wine Trends: Put Your Stock into Wine

With a staggering amount of new wine brands, regions and formats being hitting the market being an informed restaurant wine buyer these days can either be a daunting task (i.e. another headache) or a fun opportunity to explore new things and take chances with your wine list. I would strongly advise you to take the latter course. Here’s why: you’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe your restaurant.

Uncertain economies naturally create consumer fear and that fear translates to fewer trips to restaurants and a diversion to local wine shops and grocery stores as people try to save a few dollars wherever they can. Your job in this recovering economy should be to focus on providing comfort for your customers and distraction to their fears. Getting yourself and your customers deeper into wine is a great way to accomplish both. I’m not saying to raid the 401K and put it into your wine cellar, (although wine is perhaps more liquid than credit this quarter) but rather to use a few simple ideas based on some new trends and successful techniques that will help turn your restaurant into a "beacon in the night" for your patrons.

First, unless you are getting 20-30% of your sales from wine, you need to redo your list. This is the sales rate of successful restaurant wine programs and it should be your goal. If it isn’t already, your list needs to be progressive with wines grouped not by grape varietal but from lightest to richest in flavor with specific food affinities described in brief, evocative tasting notes. This will give your list an infusion of interest and provide a framework for you to introduce new regions and varietals by associating them with ones that might be better known to your customers.  Customers don’t need any more confusion in their lives, give them order and directions to discovery with your list.

As the European economy performs a diving routine, the dollar’s exchange rate has been getting more favorable, so it is time to be working aggressively with European wines. In particular, look to Austria and Alsace, which are producing outstanding rieslings and gruner veltliners that are great matches for spicier Asian fusion inspired cuisine and shellfish. Spain and Portugal are still providing fantastic red and white values with a plethora of clean, richly flavored, yet food friendly "international styled" wines from upcoming regions like the Priorat, Toro, Carinena, and Dao. South Africa is finally figuring out how to market their balanced Old World-meets-New World styled wines more effectively with easier to pronounce brands and even a few "critter" wines that won’t tear up your wallet. Finally, have endured their own collapsed economy and currency a few years ago, Argentina has come on strong with extremely tasty and great value malbecs that are "must have" wines to pair with steaks and the new star white grape Torrontes that is highly aromatic, juicy, and a sensational match for Latin inspired fish and chicken dishes.

Adding new brands and regions is important, but you need to get people in to try them and fall in love with them, so start doing half-priced bottles one or two nights a week with a winemaker dinner once a month. Add wine flights with food and cheese pairings to your menu; change up slots in your by-the-glass offerings once a month; and let your distributors know that you want to see new wines that are off the beaten path. (By the way, if you are letting your distributor "write" your list in any way, stop. It’s sure way to bore your customers.) Get your suppliers in for staff trainings and incentivize your staff with rewards and bonuses for wine knowledge and sales. Advertise and let people know what you are doing that you are serious about having fun with wine at your establishment. In short, become a wine leader, and show your patrons a good time with wine. Make your own market and put your stock into wine.

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