Variety's the spice of life

Related tags Chardonnay Cabernet sauvignon

I'm all for wine promotions; they shift a few more glasses and might teach the customer a thing or too about wine. I'm not talking about a...

I'm all for wine promotions; they shift a few more glasses and might teach the customer a thing or too about wine. I'm not talking about a two-for-one deal, or "drink as much as you like for a tenner", but educational wine promotions.

It could be the pub's latest find; or even a means for shifting bin ends at a marked-down price, getting the customer to try a wine they might not normally go for. Or it could be a way of trying out new wines for your list, while monitoring customers' preferences. Young's pubs have opted for the latter.

For the last 10 years, the majority of Young's estate has offered a selection of new wines by the glass for a three-week period.

This year's promotion kicked off in the middle of October and after the first week, had boosted wine sales by 80% ­ about 200 dozen bottles, if you're counting.

But it's not just about increasing sales, says Anne Howarth, at Cockburn & Campbell, Young's wine merchant arm.

"It's designed to increase our customers' awareness of different grape varieties and wine regions," Howarth tells me.

Called Taste the Grape, the promotion offers six wines by the glass. These are in addition to the impressive 17 wines by the glass that 200 of Young's estate already offer.

The promotion wines are new to the Young's estate list, but not new to Cockburn & Campbell "though sometimes we buy in wine especially for these events," explains Howarth.

Why am I excited about this particular promotion? Because it's about making the customer more aware of grape variety ­ something that Howarth and her team have already noticed has started to happen.

Cockburn & Campbell run regular consumer wine-tasting events in selected Young's pubs. It's a way of promoting the merchant's mail-order business (customers can buy any of the wines from a Young's list), and it's also a way of gauging customer taste. "Now they talk to me about grape varieties ­ that wouldn't have happened five years ago," Howarth says.

In response to their increasing awareness, Howarth & Co came up with Taste the Grape, a selection of wines that are, according to Cockburn & Campbell, good representations of their variety, with the most popular sellers winning a place on the permanent wines-by-the-glass list.

And here's another incentive to buy ­ choose a glass or bottle from the promotion and customers can enter a prize draw with the winning ticket-holder receiving a three-day visit to French vineyards. "Some just want to win the prize," admits Howarth, "but it still broadens their horizons."

Prices are deliberately kept low to encourage sales, with the likes of a Spanish Viura from Miralvalle at £2.50 for a 175ml glass and £9.95 a bottle, a vins de pays Sauvignon Blanc from Tramontane (£2.95/£11.95) and Montepulicano d'Abruzzo from Terre del Sole (£2.70/£10.95). And no prizes for guessing the most popular (the Viura).

Are the wines good representations of their variety? Well, unsurprisingly they've played it pretty tame. The Sauvignon tasted particularly honeyed, and the southern French Pinot Noir (from Domaine Virginie) was a world away from its exalted namesake in Burgundy ­ but a cheerfully fruity introduction, nonetheless.

However, the only bum note was a rather cloying Viognier (from Domaine Condamine L'Evêque), but let's give them full marks for having the balls to put the tongue-twister on the list in the first place.

The accompanying blurb on the tent card that graces every table doesn't make full use of its opportunity to educate, instead providing lengthy, rather wordy, tasting notes.

I'd have gone for something a little punchier, with a nugget or two about the variety's history ­ but hey, that's wine writers for you. And maybe they really are just after the free holiday.

Related topics Training

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