All posts by HN Wines

WOTM: Tenuta Castelgiocondo, Frescobaldi, Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Our February Wine of the Month is a classic style, from a world-renowned wine region and a family owned winery that dates back over 30 generations. This wine is Tenuta Castelgiocondo, Frescobaldi, Brunello di Montalcino 2015. Made at the producer’s Castelgiocondo estate, which is considered to be one of the most historical estates of Montalcino, as it was one of the first producers of Brunello di Montalcino during the 1800s.

Recently reviewed in Decanter Magazine, Monty Waldin awarded the wine 94 points, writing:
“2015 is Castelgiocondo’s first certified-organic vintage, making it Montalcino’s largest certified-organic estate. Poised red fruits demonstrate underlying power. Savoury and velvety in texture, the fruit is clear and juicy; smooth with inner power.”

In a nutshell:

A dense, warm, full-flavoured and complex Brunello with leather and earthy, savoury notes combined with violets and toasted coffee.

The producer:

A Florentine family with thirty generations dedicated to the production of great wines across six Tuscan estates. The Frescobaldi style brings together tradition and innovation. With the goal of being the most prestigious Tuscan wine producer, Frescobaldi firmly believes in respecting the local land while focusing on the highest quality grapes for its wines. The Frescobaldis own over 1,000 hectares of vineyard, all located in excellent areas for the production of fine wines. Directly managed by its family members, the Frescobaldi name is deeply connected with the history of art, culture, trade, finance and wine in Italy. Gambero Rosso awarded Frescobaldi with the prestigious ‘Tre Bicchieri Winery of the Year Award 2020’, in recognition of its uncompromising commitment to quality and innovation.

The wine:
CastelGiocondo’s unique location in Montalcino, with its varied exposure and terrain, offers infinite nuances to this Brunello. The soils comprise Galestro soils, which are rocky and schistous with a high presence of clay and calcium; and Pleocene sands which have a high presence of calcium. The high density vineyards are planted at between 250 and 400 metres above sea level, with 5,500 vines per hectare. The vines have an average age of 15 years and are Cordon spur and Guyot trained. Meticulous vineyard management takes place by hand, with autumn tilling of the soil, green manure sowing and careful canopy management to ensure good ventilation.

WOTM: Undurraga, Rose Royal, Valle de Leyda, NV

Some people use January as an opportunity to detox and embark on #DryJanuary, however at Hallgarten we are advocates of #TryJanuary – an opportunity look outside the box and give something a taste that you would have previously not gone for.

Our #TryJanuary wine of choice is Undurraga, Rose Royal, Valle de Leyda, NV, a sparkling rosé from multi-award-winning producer Undurraga. Made of 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard situated in the Valle de Leyda, to the west of the Coastal Mountain range, 14 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a delicate wine with a dry palate, persistent, even bubbles and a wonderful fruit sensation enveloping the creamy texture.

In a nutshell

A delicate and dry sparkling rosé offering abundant notes of red fruits and subtle floral hints through to a creamy texture.

The producer

Undurraga is one of Chile’s most prestigious wineries, consistently receiving high scores from top wine critics. Founded in 1885, Undurraga owns 1,350 hectares of estate vineyard in Chile’s premium wine producing areas such as Leyda, Cauquenes and Itata. Head winemaker Rafael Urrejola has spent a great deal of time understanding the diversity of Chile’s vineyard sites; the result is the emblematic ‘Terroir Hunter’ range. Undurraga cultivates their vineyards with respect for the environment and follow a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar in order to showcase the terroir.

The wine

The hand-harvested grapes were destemmed and gently crushed, before undergoing a cold maceration in order to achieve the elegant and attractive pale pink colour. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks lasting for two weeks at temperatures of 16 to 17°C to maximise the varietal aromas and flavours. After fermentation the wine was clarified and stabilised, then the liqueur de tirage was added prior to the secondary fermentation which took place using the Charmat method. The wine remained on its lees for six months, before the liqueur d’expédition was added and the wine was bottled.

Speak to your account manager to find out more about Undurraga, Rose Royal, Valle de Leyda, NV and the wines of Undurraga.

WOTM: Gérard Bertrand, Château l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge, La Clape 2018

The follow on vintage from Gérard Bertrand’s stand-out 2017 Grand Vin Rouge that took home IWC Champion Red Wine in 2019. The vineyard Gérard Bertrand, Château l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge, La Clape 2018 takes its grapes from boasts exceptional climatic conditions thanks to its position on the coast, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

2018 saw significant rainfall during winter which continued into spring. The summer was hot and dry, but the vines avoided water stress due to the soil’s water reserves from the wet winter. An Indian summer ensured the grapes reached good maturity and the harvests took place under excellent conditions with the promise of a very good vintage.

In a nutshell

Intense spicy aromas are underpinned by rich, red fruits enhanced by rich chocolate and cedar tones, elegant and opulent.

The producer

Gérard Bertrand is one of the most outstanding winemakers in the South of France, owning numerous estates among the most prestigious crus of Languedoc-Roussillon. Formerly the IWC Red Winemaker of the Year and winner of Wine Enthusiast‘s European Winery of the Year, Gérard has been cited as the ‘King of the Languedoc’ among critics. Château l’Hospitalet is the jewel of the Languedoc-Roussillon’s crown. Situated in AOP la Clape, among 1,000 hectares of garrigue, it benefits from an exceptional terroir. The wines are imbued with freshness from sea breezes, mineral depth and texture from the limestone soils and warm southern climate generosity. The vines are cultivated organically and biodynamically

The wine

Only the highest quality fruit was used in this cuvée. The grapes were sorted, destemmed and transferred to temperature controlled vats. Each variety was vinified separately with natural yeasts and maceration lasting between 20 to 25 days. At the end of winter, the wines were racked to new 225 litre casks where they spent 12 to 16 months, with fine bâtonnage from time to time. Only the best barrels were selected and blended for this wine.

Greece Meets Ipswich

Now that parts of the UK have a small amount of freedom to dine in restaurants, socialise (at a socially distant distance) and taste new wines. Our team in the East of England jumped at the opportunity to partner with The Salthouse Harbour Hotel, to bring a taste of Greek wines to the area, paired with a four course menu with a suitably Grecian theme.

When you think of Ipswich, many associate the town with the disappointing football team more so than its food and drink scene, however there are so many hidden gems – one of which, The Salthouse Hotel, on its age old harbour is a beacon of hope!

The restaurant team have often shouted about the iconic Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko and in an effort to push the Eastern Mediterranean boundaries further, they decided to throw a Greek Wine Evening to showcase what the country has to offer to their guests.

And here is how the evening looked, with words from Ed Keith, Sales Executive in Hallgarten’s East Team:

Arrival drink – 2019 Agiorgitiko Rosé ‘4-6H’, Peloponnese, Gaia Wines

“A beautifully balanced and delicate Rosé that would give any usual suspect Southern French Rosé a run for their money. A perfect harmony of fresh red fruit, acidity and a hint of sweetness. Great modern packaging also.”

Pre Starter – 2019 Vidiano, Dafnes, Crete, Idaia Winery
Paired with – Tempura halloumi fritters with pickled carrot and orange salad served with a smoked tomato relish

“The real surprise for most. Incredible minerality, balanced rounded fruit, a touch herbs and a bone dry finish. Like a combination of Chablis and Muscadet. What could go wrong when there is deep fried cheese involved!”

Starter –  2019 Malagouzia, Single Vineyard Turtles, Florina, Alpha Estate
Paired with – Whole bream “En papilotte” for two to share with lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano

“Much more refined and elegant than some other Malagousia ‘sur Lie’ gives this an incredible texture to balance with the aromatic style of the wine. Refined stone fruits with a hint of citrus. Beautiful with seafood and stands up to spice brilliantly. It didn’t shout over the dish but you knew it was there.”

Main – 2013 Monemvasios Red, Laconia, Monemvasia Winery
Paired with – “Youvetsi” Braised lamb and tomato stew with orzo pasta, spinach and feta cheese

“Possibly my favourite “lockdown” wine. If a Barolo and Bordeaux had a baby this would be it. Generous but not overpowering fruit with a real feel of freshness. Add to this dry yet supple tannin and you have in my opinion a perfect red wine for winter or anytime to be honest. This is made for lamb, either stewed of grilled and it won the crowd!”

Dessert – 2008 Vin Santo, Santorini, Gaia Wines
Paired with – Honey and rosewater baklava, Pistachio nuts and cinnamon syrup

“I don’t need to convince anyone on this. Rich and luscious toffee, caramel and figs. Much more complexity and knocks spots off most other Vin Santo’s and certainly most dessert wines. It isn’t cheap but we only served this in 50ml measures so the bottle went a long way. A real point of difference on a list!”

WOTM: Ktima Biblia Chora ‘Ovilos’ White, Pangeon, Semillon Assyrtiko 2019

Recently awarded 97 points and a Platinum Medal at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards, Ktima Biblia Chora ‘Ovilos’ 2019 truly is a world-beating wine. The wine is a 50/50 blend of Semillon and Greek indigenous variety, Assyrtiko, which are grown in the warmest but most barren spot in the vineyard, along the Pangeon hillside.

In a nutshell

The distinctive and characteristic aromas of apricot and honey from the Semillon blend perfectly with the citrus and lemon notes from the Assyrtiko, with nuances of vanilla and nutty hints adding complexity. Elegant, with a creamy texture, this stylish wine is beautifully balanced by refreshing palate which leads to a long finish.

The producer

Ktima Biblia Chora is the innovative creation of Vassilis Tsaktsarlis and Vangelis Gerovassiliou two of the most talented winemakers in Greece. The winery was established in 1998 and the privately owned vineyard lies on the cool climate slopes of Mount Pangeon, at Kokkinochori near Kavala. It has been farmed organically since day one. These exceptional, cutting edge wines are some of the best white wines in Greece, which have similarities to very good white Bordeaux – not surprising as Vassilis Tsaktsarlis studied with Denis Dubourdieu; the king of modern white Graves.

The wine

The Assyrtiko (pronounced Ah-SEER-tee-koe) and Semillon grapes were picked at optimum maturity and then carefully selected. The wine was vinified in the state-ofthe-art winery, using modern techniques to ensure the aromatics and varietal flavours were retained. Each variety was vinified separately in 225 litre French oak barrels, of which 50% were new and 50% were one year old. Maturation lasted for five months, with bâtonnage taking place in the barrel.

WOTM: Tikveš ‘Cuvee Methodius’, Vranec 2019

The 05th October saw the second edition of the now annual World Vranec Day – a day filled with talks and panel discussions about the grape variety, all to help raise awareness around the world. Vranec is considered to be one of the most important red varieties in Republic of North Macedonia where our Wine of the Month for October – Tikveš ‘Cuvee Methodius’, Vranec 2019 – comes from.

In a nutshell

Aromas of blueberries and blackberries are complemented by roasted hints combined with fresh herbs through to a robust finish.

The producer

Every wine tells a story about the synergy between the soil, sun, grapes and the country of its origin. The Tikveš Winery has been narrating the Republic of North Macedonia’s story as a winemaking country since 1885. However, the Republic of North Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered wine countries: it is a natural paradise of vineyards, mountains, lakes and rivers, with a climate perfectly suited to producing quality grapes. Located in the Tikveš region, the Tikveš estate sustainably cultivates indigenous varieties such as Smederevka, Vranec and Kratoshija. The grapes are vinified in the state-of-the-art cellar equipped with the latest technology under the watchful eye of illustrious consultant oenologist Philippe Cambie, resulting in a series of authentic and characterful wines

The wine

The grapes were destemmed, crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain the purity of fruit. When fermentation was complete, the young wine was pressed off its skins in a pneumatic press, cold stabilised, filtered and bottled with minimal sulphur.

Are the days of long lists numbered?

Jon Harris, Hallgarten’s Director of Scotland and NW England has pondered the future of long lists and just what a short list would comprise of.

First up, I agree the question is quite ambiguous – the answer really is dependent on the kind of venue you are talking about; however for this piece I am considering a long list being one that is 60 bins or so.

In my opinion there are still some places where a wine list should be a leather bound tome, covering every country, region and producer imaginable – the type of wine list you can happily spend a few hours flicking through. Wine is hugely emotive and romantic for many, and the UK market is one of the most exciting and diverse in the world. It is vital our top sommeliers and buyers keep this tradition alive. 67 Pall Mall is the shining beacon of this.

All that being said, for a huge proportion of the UK On trade it is simply not a sensible option. With a move to a more casual cooking and dining style (just look at Nathan Outlaw’s announcement in June closing his 2-star Michelin flagship restaurant to replace it with a ‘more accessible’ dining option) it is important the modern wine list keeps pace.

I am sure some of the traditionalists even within my own business will disagree, but I believe you can build an exceptional, balanced and exciting list in under 40 bins. Here’s how it could look:

  • 3 or 4 sparkling wines. You can cover entry-level, an interesting upsell or Rosé and a Champagne
  • 10 to 14 whites and reds. Anything less than this and you run out of room for the more esoteric wines, certainly once you include the “must haves” (Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, etc)
  • 3 Rosé allows a range of styles and regions to suit customer pallets and price points
  • 2 or 3 sweet wines, including fortified – unfortunately a declining category but essential for a quality restaurant. Try adding them to your dessert menu as well as or instead of the wine list.

There are a number of benefits of a shorter list. Firstly this approach allows a range of list design options, from the more traditional by price or alphabetical by country, to a modern style-based model. I am a big advocate of a list constructed by style/flavour profile: it forces the customer to read the list to find what they actually want to drink, rather than purely selecting by price or grape variety. It also makes sure the list’s creator is offering an even(ish) balance of styles, not simply what they like to drink.

Having a more concise list also allows you to include and give focus to some exciting and esoteric wines at key price points. On a larger list these quirkier wines can often get lost as customers search for something they recognise, or rely on a Sommelier’s recommendation. Here they are front and centre.

The shorter list gives you the opportunity to offer a large majority (or all) of the list by the glass. This not only has margin benefits, as the GP on glasses is usually higher than by the bottle, but offers the customer the chance to experiment and experience the range.

A shorter list by no means removes the need for a Somm or buyer; in fact, it arguably makes their role more important – shorter lists need to be regularly changed, usually seasonally, in line with food menus. This means the link between food and wine is more important than ever, and any decisions must make real commercial sense and not purely be whimsical.

An important financial consideration is stockholding value. A more concise list will automatically help control par levels and stock management. In the On trade where margins and cash are almost always tight (particularly at the moment), it is vital not to tie up too much in stock.

Finally team training. This has become increasingly important over the years and can have a huge impact on wine sales. A couple of years ago, one large national customer of ours was able to attribute a 7% growth in value and volume directly to our training programs. A shorter list makes training easier, and opens it up to all the team, not just a select few wine specialists and Sommeliers. If all your team are selling better wine, it will drive incremental margin.

I understand that for the purists out there having a list with just one or possibly no Bordeaux or Burgundy mentioned will simply not cut it, but for much of the trade I believe an exciting, regularly changing, concise list is absolutely the way forward, not just financially but predominantly to enhance the guest experience.

WOTM: Andeluna ‘Blanc De Franc’, Tupungato 2019

In September we are taking a slightly different look at #CabernetDay, and celebrating with a Cabernet Franc Rosé – Andeluna ‘Blanc De Franc’, Tupungato 2019. Cabernet Franc first became widely used in Loire Valley around the 17th century and is also one of the parent grapes that created Cabernet Sauvignon.
Recently announced as Tim Atkin’s Rosé Discovery of the Year in his 2020 Argentina report, this is a new addition to our portfolio and a Rosé well worth trying as we approach the Autumn months.
In a nutshell:

A refreshing rosé with intense floral aromas, with spicy and herbal top notes of white pepper, tomato leaf and basil. The unctuous palate has a silky texture and is beautifully balanced by bright acidity on the crisp, spicy finish.

The producer:

Founded in 2003, Andeluna produces premium mountain wines from their 70 hectare vineyard situated at an elevation of 1,300 metres in the rocky terroir of Gualtallary, Tupungato in the Uco Valley, Mendoza. By night, the moon can be seen illuminating the magnificent Andes Mountains nearby and the winery has been named after this stunning scene.

The vineyard is managed using sustainable practices and in 2015 the entire vineyard was soil mapped with cultivation methods adapted accordingly. Winemaker, Manuel Gonzalez (previously Head Winemaker at Pulenta Estate and Chief Oenologist at Trivento) works alongside Andeluna’s wine consultant Hans Vinding Diers, together they use minimal intervention to create outstanding wines which have propelled this producer into the global spotlight in a very short space of time.

The wine:

The fruit was vinified with minimal intervention following a philosophy of respecting the grape’s origins and terroir. The Cabernet Franc grapes were treated as though they were a white variety in the vineyard and the cellar. The grapes were immediately pressed with the free run juice being separated from the pressed juice. Only the freerun juice was used for this wine. Fermentation took place with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks, without the influence of oak, in order to retain the purity of fruit.

Wine Merchants, What is your point of difference?

As we publish this we are emerging out of the coronavirus lockdown, hospitality businesses are reopening and we are looking to establish the ‘new norm’. With all the noise going on, it is become more important than ever to stand out from the crowd.

 Have you ever found yourself eating out (in the days when you used to be able to) scanning the list and seeing the same wine listed in other restaurants, wine bars and pubs you’ve been to before? In a similar way, if you see the shelves or check the websites of wine retailers up and down the country, really good wines do crop up again and again. That’s normally a sign of quality, and quite understandably a good wine is something that most buyers gravitate towards. Customers meet at winemaker dinners and producer trips and share their views and preferences, and it is inevitable that those conversations create curiosity and influence to an extent.

Although a list of SKU’s dotted with wines that are repeated elsewhere is not necessarily the sign of an identikit list, there is only so much differentiation you can make with your product range if you are selecting from the best suppliers, unless they have a dynamic, exciting, esoteric and regionally diverse list. With that in mind, how does a retailer really stand out from the crowd? As one of my mentors used to say, the most important difference you can make over your competitors in any business is ‘service, service, service’. It is amazing how you are prompted to rate any kind of product and service that you have used, and the truth is, that measure helps to elevate service levels especially with those where it does not come naturally. The bank I use has always been based on the principle of high levels of customer service, and everyone I have ever spoken to there is genuinely nice and helpful. It is in the company’s DNA. The garage I have to use for my car service contract is the polar opposite, where the staff were often surly and disinterested, and you can sense it is not a happy ship. Now that they are held to account for the way they interact with their customers, their attitude has definitely changed for the better, even though it does not seem genuine.

The wine business is no different. In the same way that you prefer to do business with a distributor that is flexible with minimum orders, where invoices and orders are accurate, arrive intact and when they are meant to, your customer expects the same reliability and flexibility from you. But that is only where the comparison begins; our customers are looking for a business partner they can trust with their advice on products, to share market data and analysis that shapes the way they interact with the consumer, with point of purchase ideas, which can range from shelf talkers to info-link labels accessible via your phone, and tips on category management by geography, style, occasion, shopper demographic, etc. Just as you are looking for a distributor who is willing to support you with producer dinners and tastings, in-store sampling and annual/bi-annual tastings , your customers are looking for a retailer they can trust to advise you about the wine that suits their requirements, and offers them regular opportunities to engage via events.

If things continue as they are, and lockdowns become ever more restrictive, those retailers with a decent website, where you can place your order and get the wine delivered, will have a distinct advantage as it stands. Those willing to adapt to the market conditions may thrive. Perhaps a distributor who offers to help with your orders – from picking to packing and delivering – would be an added bonus, so you can focus on selling and taking orders. I recently saw a flyer which had been popped through the letter box from a local florist which offered to help with deliveries of food and provisions to those that are house bound. It appeared to be a sincere act of kindness, and even if it is a shameless opportunity for good PR, where is the harm in that?

One thing is for certain, those that that have always offered that point of difference and continue to do so during this most difficult economic situation will emerge stronger ‘on the other side’ (to borrow one of the most utilised phrases of the moment).

WOTM: Larry Cherubino ‘Laissez Faire’, Pemberton, Pinot Noir 2018

With Pinot Noir Day around the corner, on 18th August, and the imminent launch of Assemblage issue #3 focused on Sustainability, we felt now was the perfect time to take a closer look at Larry Cherubino’s ‘Laissez Faire’ Pinot Noir 2018. While inspiration has been taken from organics, biodynamics and natural winemaking practices, the Laissez Faire range could be called ‘natural wines’; Larry Cherubino likes to think of them as “post natural” wines. 

In a nutshell

An elegant Pinot Noir expression, showing black cherry and strawberry notes with savoury undertones and delicate hints of oak spice. Smooth, long and silky.

The producer

Named ‘Winery of the Year’ by James Halliday and Matt Skinner, Larry Cherubino wants his wines to be distinctive and to speak clearly of their variety and vineyard site. He believes in paying meticulous attention to the vineyard, canopy and water management, picking at the right time and minimal intervention in the winery. Larry also makes wine under the Laissez Faire label, an exquisite range of natural wines which are the ultimate expression of site, made in small batches from hand-harvested grapes. From delicate whites to opulent reds, all his wines have pure class and finesse.

The wine

Laissez Faire means “let it be” and this is reflected in the hands-off approach of winemaking. The grapes were hand-harvested, sorted and naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts. The wine spent eight months maturing in French oak foudres, offering optimal fruit expression and oak integration. As the name suggests, no additional acids, enzymes or yeasts were added during vinification and the wine was not fined. There was zero sulphur use throughout the winemaking and only minimal sulphur was added at bottling.

For more information on Larry Cherubino ‘Laissez Faire’, Pemberton, Pinot Noir 2018 and wines of Larry Cherubino, click here.

 

WOTM: Château de Campuget, ‘1753’ Syrah Sans Sulfites, 2018

A new addition to the Hallgarten portfolio from our long-term partners in the Northern Rhône region. The grapes for the Château de Campuget, ‘1753’ Syrah Sans Sulfites come from the Château’s own vineyard, which is situated 15 kilometres south of Nîmes, near the village of Manduel in the heart of the ‘Appellation d’Origine Protégée’ (AOP) of the Costières de Nîmes, however winemaker Frank-lin Dalle has chosen to designate this wine as Vin de France to distinguish the distinctive style of this wine, which has been made without sulphites

 

In a nutshell

This classy and intense wine shows a smoky, liquorice and plum character with a hint of dark chocolate and pepper.

The producer

Château de Campuget was established in 1942 and is a top quality estate near Nîmes, which is steeped in history. The Château itself was built in 1753 and at the same time the first vines were planted, prompting the 1753 range of wines which mark this historic date. The fusion of tradition and progression unite in the cellars here,  producing wines with integrity, finesse and a wonderful expression of terroir, from a wide range of traditional Rhône varieties. In 2019, Château de Campuget was certified as Haute Valeur  Environmentale, which officially recognises the environmental performance of winegrowers, including biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategies, managed fertiliser use and water resource management.

The wine

This wine was vinified without the addition of sulphites. The grapes were carefully selected to ensure only the healthiest and highest quality fruit was fermented. The berries were destemmed and vinified with minimal intervention in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at 20°C. Post fermentation maceration lasted two weeks with twice daily pump overs extracting the rich fruit flavours and structure from the tannins. The wine was made without any oak influence in order to allow the purity of fruit shine through and was bottled early.

The Blink Effect

Do customers really make decisions on wine spend that quickly?

As I write this article we are all in Lockdown and the industry in which I ply my trade has been shut down. These are uncertain times, but I’m hoping that by the time this article is released the worst of this pandemic will be behind us. Let’s all hope for a bounce back of monumental proportions!

I can’t remember the first time I heard the term ‘The Blink Effect’ but at the time I remember thinking, this all makes a lot of sense. From then on I’ve pretty much made this concept the basis for my sales patter over the last ten years, but is it real?

The premise behind my theory was that a consumer will make a very quick decision on what they are willing to spend on wine within seconds of entering an establishment. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’, “spontaneous decisions are often as good as, or even better than, carefully planned and considered ones”.

So if consumers are going to make a really quick decision, I wanted to make sure all my customers were armed and ready. Let’s just say I was an unequivocal believer and ready to spread the word!

So what are we talking about here? What can we change in an establishment to increase the average spend on wine? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get more bums on seats, so increasing the average spend has never been more important.

Firstly I want to acknowledge that the concept of any establishment has the biggest influence on wine spend. For example a restaurant specialising in burgers will undoubtedly have a lower average spend than a restaurant serving up rare breed steaks cooked over coal. It’s the little details that I want to concentrate on. My theory is that when you add up the effects of all these little changes, the positive impact on spend far outweighs the level of investment needed. I realise I’m starting to sound like Dave Brailsford (former Director of British Cycling) and his Marginal Gains philosophy, but I’m sure you get my point.

In my opinion, one of the key influencers on wine spend is stemware. It’s a simple concept: if you see a decent glass on the table you’d be more inclined to want to fill it with something good. If I go somewhere and see glasses that would be more at home in the Queen Vic, I maybe unfairly presume that wine isn’t a focus for their business. You’re hardly going to drop a Barolo into it! Is it really this simple though? Put out sexy glasses and watch sales sky-rocket! My colleagues have often asked me if I have proof that this actually works and to be honest I haven’t – but it has to make a difference, doesn’t it??

The actual visibility of wine in the outlet is another area that I like to explore with customers. It’s something else that customers can see, or not as the case may be, within seconds of walking into a restaurant. Again for me it underlines how serious an establishment is about wine. Now this could just be a simple wall display using dummy bottles, or budget permitting, display fridges on show in the restaurant. For me, any visibility should be seen as positive. I remember one customer asking me why wine sales had dropped and I could see three newly installed beer vats over his shoulder! It’s pretty clear to me, if you don’t show people that you sell quality wine, why would you expect them to buy it?

Place settings – now there’s something that keeps me awake at night! On one occasion I had to remind myself that I was supposed to be selling wine, after I’d spent the best part of an hour obsessing over salt and pepper mills with a customer. As a customer if you sit down at a table and everything just looks right, I believe this can have a really positive impact on wine spend. If I see salt and pepper pots that don’t match, I’m grabbing my coat and sprinting for the nearest exit! When a customer walks in, one of the first things they’ll see are the tables, so making sure they send the right message is vital.

I suppose what I’m saying is everything the consumer sees influences the average spend on wine. The reality is most of what I’ve outlined can be seen within 5 seconds of walking through the door. So if the Blink Effect is real and we only have a few seconds, let’s make them count.

-Joe Wadhams, Business Development Director

Featured in issue two of Assemblage.