In the third part of the Morning Advertiser's series, Clare Young managing director of training consultancy Vintellect gives advice on creating an area of the back bar dedicated to wine
With the wine list complete, it is essential to ensure that sales are maximised by creating a "wine station" an area behind the bar specifically dedicated to wine sales.
A well-designed wine station should create an impressive visual impact for the customer as well as ensuring fast and efficient service. So often this critical area of wine sales is neglected. Wines are left standing on shelves waiting for the corks to dry out, refrigeration is lacking, the glasses area is a mile-hike from the wines, and the interior designer's favourite spot lights are now causing your best-selling Rioja to boil in its bottle.
These are the key areas to focus on:
An attractive display of the full range of products is essential. Bottles should ideally be displayed at "eye level" and labels should be clearly visible. While it is true that bottles with cork closures should be stored lying down, it is a good idea to have at least one bottle standing up with the label facing the customer. Remember to regularly replace the display bottles in order to prevent the corks drying out.
Storage and refrigeration
The key is having enough stock that is readily accessible and maintained at the correct temperature. There must be adequate refrigeration for the service of white wine, sparkling wine, rosé and sherry. Red wine and Port should be served at room temperature, which is approximately 18°C, not 25°C.
Glass-fronted display cabinets are now available, which will keep both red and white wine at service temperature. These are lockable and are therefore useful if there is a shortage of space behind the bar.
Fridges may be positioned under the counter or sunk into the back counter. Glass-fronted fridges are useful for displaying wine, but once again it is essential to ensure good stock rotation if bottles are stored standing up.
Bottle display stands
I like to see opened bottles of red wine standing together on a dedicated bottle display stand. This way, if every member of bar staff places the opened bottles in one place, it prevents staff from opening too many bottles of the same wine, which could lead to wastage.
It is also not a good idea to have numerous bottles of wine pre-opened on the back counter. No doubt opening bottles of wine prior to service can save time later during busy periods, but at the end of the day it is considered to be sloppy and unprofessional.
Needless to say, a good supply of glasses is essential as part of any wine station. These should be kept within easy reach for every member of staff. Unless you are planning to sell your glasses, these should, however, be stored out of sight. At the very least they should not occupy your prime selling space.
If you use Le Verre de Vin (see box below), it should be positioned as close to the centre of the wine station as possible, so that resealing a bottle of wine becomes an effortless task.
With all the developments in the wine trade and types of corkscrew currently available it is amazing that the "waiter's friend" still remains a firm favourite.
This is still the opener preferred by the top sommeliers, although some bar staff prefer using a foil cutter and a more user-friendly corkscrew such as the Screwpull.
Counter cork extractors, which are permanently fixed to the bar top, are quick and easy to use but often do not work on bottles with plastic corks.
Every wine station should have a supply of Champagne buckets to keep sparkling as well as white and rosé wine chilled.
A strategically-positioned and clearly-written blackboard is usually a winner. However, the perfect wine station would include neatly-printed wine lists with descriptions as well as a blackboard. These should be positioned on the bar and not tucked away behind the till.
It is a treat to appreciate a stunning wine display that is magnificently lit by bright spot lights, but have you ever tasted the wine? Every bottle of red wine that is taken from the shelf is likely to be unpleasantly warm, with alcoholic vapours that drown the very fruit characteristics heralded by the enthusiasts.
Lighting should be subtle and never directed closely at the wine bottles themselves. Always use light bulbs that do not radiate much heat.