Building a quality wine list

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine, Terroir, Uk

Branded wines have a lot of advantages to offer the pub trade.The days when "house red" and "house white" could be considered enough of a choice to...

Branded wines have a lot of advantages to offer the pub trade.

The days when "house red" and "house white" could be considered enough of a choice to offer pub customers are well behind us. Customers have an increasing expectation that a range of different wines will be available, not only to suit different tastes, but also different occasions, from a Sunday lunch with the family to a bottle shared after work.

Overall wine sales in the UK are being driven by the popularity of New World wines - those from regions such as Australia, New Zealand California, South Africa and Chile. At the same time, Old World wine producers, countries such as France, Germany and Italy, have seen sales in the UK decline.

To put this in context for the pub trade, the most successful on-trade wine is Stowells of Chelsea, supplied by Matthew Clark. This is an "umbrella" brand which offers a range of different wines, both red and white, mainly Old World but with some New World varieties, in wine boxes, bottles and on dispense.

However, in order to familiarise UK consumers with their offer, the New World producers have proven to be adept at developing successful wine brands. Despite a traditional reluctance by many pub operators to offer branded wine, the facts seem to show that these wine brands have the potential to be just as successful in pubs as they have become in the take-home trade.

Each year, The Publican publishes the Brands Report, a listing of the Top 200 on-trade brands, compiled by AC Neilsen based on analysis of actual pub sales. The just-released listing for the Brands Report 2001 shows the arrival of a number of New World wine brands in the Top 200 listing, including Blossom Hill, E&J Gallo, Hardy's Stamp of Australia, Jacob's Creek, and Sutter Home.

Faced with demand from customers for an increasing variety of wines, as well as a growing range of popular wine brands with a proven appeal to consumers, pubs have the opportunity to develop a high quality wine list with far more confidence than ever before.

Richard Wilson, business unit director on-trade for Australian wine producer BRL Hardy, looks at the ways pubs can build a list using the range of brands and varieties now available .

About branded wines

  • Brands are driving the growth in the wine category in the UK market
  • The New World, and particularly Australia, is driving the sales of branded wines
  • Australian wines are set to overtake sales of French wines in the UK
  • Consumers like New World wines because they are easy to drink, fruit-driven styles and full of flavour. In addition the labelling is readily identifiable and easy to understand.

Why put brands on your list?

  • Quality wine brands offer the consumer familiarity, reassurance, security and confidence to buy
  • Quality wine brands are easier to sell than an unknown wine, particularly when your staff have little wine knowledge or are inexperienced in selling wine
  • Stocking recognisable wine brands within your range will help increase your overall wine sales
  • Customers recognise and trust the top wine brands and, therefore, feel at ease buying them in the on-trade
  • A quality wine brand will deliver quality on a consistent basis
  • Quality wine brands will reflect well on your outlet and help generate repeat business
  • Good wine brands offer customers excellent value for money, subject to realistic on-trade retail pricing.

What brands should you choose?

  • Make sure your wine list has a strong representation of the best-selling wine brands from a selection of different countries
  • Limit your wine list to no more than 10 still wines
  • Balance your wine list with a variety of New World wines
  • Consider stocking wine brands from the Old World, particularly from wine-producing regions which are in growth, such as Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France
  • Think about your customer profile and demographics to ensure your wine list reflects their tastes and profile. For example, if you have a young customer base go for an Australian brand like Banrock Station
  • If your wine sales are small, consider smaller bottle sizes, eg single-serving bottles of branded wines, to minimise wastage.

How do you promote your branded wines?

  • Make sure wine brands are on display - after all, seeing is selling! However well-known and popular wine brands are, if they are hidden under the counter you will sell less wines than those easily seen
  • Highlight your wine portfolio with descriptions, food matching and press quotes on printed lists or a blackboard for maximum awareness
  • If you sell food, do recommend wines to go with the menu - wine and food are complementary to each other
  • Always serve your white wines slightly chilled
  • Work in partnership with wine suppliers to develop promotions and training and to source point-of-sale material to generate wine sales
  • Find out if there are any marketing campaigns for particular brands that you should be aware of, such as TV advertising or sponsorship
  • Sell wine by the glass as well as in 75cl bottles in order to encourage trial. Offer the choice of 175ml or 250ml glasses to help generate wine sales and maximise your trading margin.


  • Wine is still a mystery to many people working within the on-trade. To remedy this situation and help increase your sales do take advantage of any training support for your staff offered by wine brand owners or wine buyers.

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails, Wine

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