A good climate and increased investment has brought Australian wine to the point of overtaking French in the UK. John Porter offers advice on getting the most out of the popularity of New World wines.
You could almost hear the gasp of disbelief from across the Channel when it was announced last year that sales of Australian wine in the UK were on the point of overtaking sales of French wine.
New World Wines - not only those from Australia, but also New Zealand, North America, South America and, stretching a geographical point, South Africa - have grown their market share dramatically over the past five years.
There are a number of reasons for this. New World producers benefit from a better climate, as well as investment in modern production techniques by the big producers, which makes the end product more predictable. That's bad news if you're an aficionado who enjoys detecting subtle differences between vintages, but good news if you enjoyed the bottle you bought last week, and want to repeat the experience. At the same time, New World producers have developed familiar brands which further reassure consumers for whom consistency is important.
For pubs, the most important issue is how to let the customer know about the wines on offer. Chris Hewin, Grants of St James's Wines on-trade customer marketing manager, said: "There are three main ways of subdividing a wine list; by country, price or wine style. The method you use should reflect your client base and their level of wine knowledge."
The wine menu
Mr Hewin advises that the cheapest wine should not be placed at the top of the list by default. Consumers read the list from top to bottom, so this automatically encourages them to spend the least possible. By placing the cheapest/house wines in the middle of the list consumers may be persuaded to trade up and spend more than they may otherwise do.
"If the consumer base consists of wine drinkers with limited knowledge then grouping a wine list by country of origin will be largely redundant. A more informative list would group the wines by style, with short explanations, making it easier for the consumer to understand and to choose.
"With a more wine-knowledgeable client base, typically those that frequent a bar restaurant establishment, using a wine list grouped by country of origin may be more appropriate. The more sophisticated customer will already have sufficient knowledge to know what styles come from which country."
Wine promotions themed by country are increasingly used by pubs, said Mr Hewin.
"In pubs the wine category tends to get overlooked as far as promotional activity goes, and therefore any promotion in this area is beneficial to the category. Country-themed promotions do work, providing a number of factors are taken into account."
Firstly, targeting the promotion around a specific date or event will make it more valid and relevant e.g. a USA promotion on American Independence Day. It adds credibility rather than picking an arbitrary day or week on which to have a promotion.
The literature/blackboards/posters accompanying the promotion need to give a broad idea of what the wines are like, so that the consumer knows what they are buying. They should also be tied in with an offer such as a free glass with a meal or a money-off promotion.
Otherwise there is no incentive for the consumer to buy the wine on promotion, rather than any other wine the pub offers, just because it is being pushed.
As wine is seasonal it is also worth considering what you will be promoting when. For example, a summer promotion should target white and rosé wine, whereas at other times of the year a red promotion may be more appropriate.
The main point to remember when planning any promotion is to pre-advertise, don't just wait for customers to turn up. This can be achieved using chalk boards and by printing or handwriting small posters and/or leaflets.
It is important that promotions are as prominent and noticeable as possible.
If possible, link a number of drinks categories together so that a French wine promotion, for example, might also include a promotion on Kronenbourg lager.
Linking wines with food
Promotions linking food and wine are a popular tactic.
Richard Wilson, on-trade business unit director for Australian producer BRL Hardy Wine Company believes that it is very useful for staff to have an understanding of which wines accompany which foods.
"Your customers will appreciate your professionalism and reliability," says Mr Wilson.
To help publicans appreciate the match between different wines and food styles, BRL Hardy has produced the following suggested pairings for its wine brands:
- Hardys Stamp Of Australia
Chardonnay/Semillon: Caesar salad, crostiniRiesling/Gewrztraminer: fried chilli prawns, squid with garlic and peppers Grenache/Shira: light finger food such as tortillas and taramasalataShiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon: goats cheese tart with cranberry jelly, sausages and onion mashCabernet Sauvignon/Merlot: mushroom risotto, spaghetti bolognase
- Hardys Nottage Hill
Chardonnay: roast chicken, cornish pasties, grilled salmon steaks Riesling: blue cheese quicheCabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz: toad in the hole, fillet of pork in red wine sauce Shiraz: marinated lamb leg shanks
- Hardys VR
Chardonnay: chicken fondue, jambalaya Cabernet Sauvignon: lamb meatballs with oregano, fillet steak sandwiches with horseradishShiraz: steak and kidney pie, beef satay
Chardonnay/Sauvignon: grilled sardines with lime and fennel, garlic musselsCabernet/Shiraz/Merlot: rabbit stew with bacon, roasted pepper tagliatelle
- Hardys Tintara
Tintara Chardonnay: roast turkey, chicken with tarragon and orange Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon: rib of beef, winter lamb Tintara Shiraz: roast leg of veal