The turn of the screw

Related tags Cabernet sauvignon Chardonnay Wine Uk

You've no doubt all read the predictions for 2004 that appeared in our national newspapers at the beginning of the year. Apparently this year, we'll...

You've no doubt all read the predictions for 2004 that appeared in our national newspapers at the beginning of the year. Apparently this year, we'll all be painting our taupe walls royal blue; while kitsch is in and minimalism is out where trendy bars are concerned (a visit to Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill is a must); and those of you who are still on the Atkins Diet, you can stop that now ­ think South Beach Diet, Hillary Clinton is already hooked. So what does this year hold for wine drinkers? Will they break free from the shackles of Chardonnay? Will Jacob's Creek and Stowells of Chelsea still hog the top spot in pubs? Will we finally see the end of the stingy 125ml Paris goblet? And let's hope that pubs get their act together with regards to wine preservation systems ­ heck, a simple Vacu Vin will do. And wouldn't it be great if pubs started to set the odd wine trend instead of lagging (about three years) behind what's happening in the high street? One thing's for certain ­ wine consumption is still soaring. Wine is now the most frequently-quaffed alcoholic drink and glugging wine was up by 10% last year on the previous year's figures (AC Nielsen). Topping supermarket-shopping lists are wines from Australia, France, South Africa and Italy ­ so, at the very least, you should be offering examples of each on your wine lists. On the grape variety popularity stakes, Chardonnay still rules in the UK, with Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot the most popular red-grape varieties. Of course, if I were writing the same story about on-trade wine trends in San Francisco, I'd be talking about the surge in Austrian Grüner Veltliner or Sardinian Vermentino, Argentinean Nebbiolo and New Zealand Pinot Noir ­ but hey, they're a particularly experimental bunch, and they think nothing of forking out $10 or more for a glass of wine. But what of the UK on-trade? Have restaurant-goers moved on from "a bottle of your house Chablis, please"? Er, not exactly. Chablis (made from Chardonnay, remember?) still regularly tops the request list ­ much to the annoyance of one London restaurateur who got so frustrated by diners just blindly ordering it, regardless of who made it, overlooking the other wines he had painstakingly put together on his eclectic list, that he took it off in a rage. Customers complained, of course, so it was reinstated, but he chose a new producer, at a much higher price ­ not that it made any difference, people still regularly forked out £38 for a bottle of it. Though restaurant-goers, it seems, are much more willing to experiment these days. They might not be able to pronounce some of the names and grape varieties, but if it's presented to them as a wine flight (tasting samplers), as they are at Islington restaurant Lola's, then they're game, says owner Morfudd Richards. Okay, so wine flights in a pub may sound poncey, but you could try putting a few bottles on the bar, or scribble specials on a blackboard. Jason Danciger, the wine and food director of the 1,400-strong Spirit Group, is committed to just that, even displaying wines in Belfast sinks, and installing preservation systems in each bar. In fact, since he took over a couple of years ago, wine volume at the Spirit Group is growing at 32%, even triple-digit growth in some areas, he reports. "It's a culmination of improved training, better merchandising and in-house awareness," declares Danciger. A top Paris sommelier said to me recently (rather dejectedly, I might add), that these days people just want younger wines that are easy to drink, with nothing too tannic, or acidic ­ softer wines with a lot of fruit, a little oak and good colour. Now that doesn't sound too difficult to deliver, does it? And once the screw cap takes off ­ and it will ­ life couldn't be easier on the wine service front. JD Wetherspoon has already embraced the much-lauded closure ­ and the Bear and Swan in Chew Magna, Somerset, can't sell enough of New Zealand producer Villa Maria's screw-capped Sauvignon Blanc. Now that's what I call progress.

Related topics Wine

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more