Talking Heads - Wine Special: those in the know reveal what's hot and what's not

By Chris Losh

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New world Chardonnay

Chris Losh looks at the best varieties to stock, how to drive sales and the best food matches.

Chris Losh looks at the best varieties to stock,how to drive sales and the best food matches

Carlos Read, Moreno Wines

For gastro pubs, we do well with quirky, low production wines that are a bit obscure, where the price isn't all that important - wines from places like Chacolí, Spain's smallest DO [in the Basque country], or weird wineries up in the mountains in Costers del Segre.

At more ordinary price levels, we've seen strong demand for the wines of La Copa (Campo de Borja) and Inurrieta in Navarra -particularly the latter's rosé. Demand for this isn't just seasonal, either - rosé is definitely coming back, and people are having it with food. Demand for Rioja just keeps on growing as well.

There are probably two areas that are languishing a bit: Albariño and Calatayud. Nobody knows anything about Calatayud. As a region it was in a few years ago, but doesn't seem to be any more, whereas with Albariño, if you look hard, you can find native white grapes that are just as good and less expensive.

We've been concentrating on incentivising staff rather than working with the consumers. If you get the sommeliers on board, with a few tent cards, they'll sell buckets for you.

Peter Bowers, Hayman Barwell Jones

Consumers seem to be willing to accept almost any wine from the New World. In this the on-trade is reflecting what is going on in the offtrade, though I think on-trade wines are better.

South Africa and Argentina are growing fast, and Australia and Chile have been there for a while. We've seen strong demand for Torbreck and Wirra Wirra, which are both at the mid to upper-end of the scale.

I think there's a growth of blends too. People say you need single varietals, but that's rubbish. We've seen big sales of whites that are a blend of Sauvignon, Semillon and Viognier.

Even though it wasn't a great summer last year, we sold a lot of rosé, and here the New World doesn't have anywhere to touch France. For rosé, people are drinking a colour, and the fact that it's from France doesn't matter. White Rioja is back because it's something different, and Pinot Grigio is still going like the clappers. Loire wines can be a hard sell, though. Every list used to have a couple on in the old days, but it's a bit out of fashion now.

The old "wine of the month" on a tent card promotions are a bit old fashioned, but we've had big success with one we've run at a place in Greenwich. That's because we've offered wines that are a bit different: a Neetlingshof Cabernet from South Africa and an unoaked Chardonnay from Ontario, both for £20.

David Gleave MW, Liberty Wines

Stelvin closures are working well for us, particularly in gastro pubs. We've also seen a big move to rosé - and not just in the summer.

Consumers generally seem to be trading up - we're seeing very strong sales above £20 a bottle in London - and people also seem to be drinking more wine by the glass. In this area, we think people are being more adventurous with the grape variety. Pinot Grigio is going well but so, too, is Viognier.

Wine lists seem to be broadly-based, with fairly equal representation for the Old and New World, though sales of French wines are still strongest at the top end.

In terms of the outlets that are doing best, places with an emphasis on wine, or who employ a specialist behind the bar - or even on the floor - are seeing stronger sales both across a wider range of wines and at higher prices.

Pamela Gregory, Mitchells & Butlers

France is continuing to go down. They're the best winemakers in the world, and if you sit a captive audience down and make them drink a bottle, they'll prefer it to the New World by the end. But the country's profile is so low. It's a marketing issue.

As for wines that are on the up, rosé is going like the clappers. We're selling less than last year, which was really hot, but a lot more than three or four years ago.

Champagne is up, too, and we're doing a lot of alternative varietals from Italy, wines like Gavi and Soave. In fact, our whites generally are going from strength to strength.

I've tried to promote reds in the summer by getting our managers to put Pinot Noir, Valpolicella and Pinotage on ice.

The big push for sensible drinking has seen a lot of our big brands stop the three-for-two promotion. We've also moved from 250ml glasses to 175ml. Our drinks marketing team are looking at whether we need a new promotional tool, but certainly over the next 18 months we're hoping to get far more competitive on prices, which should allow us to drive volume.

Nick Gross, the Devonshire House,Turnham Green, West London

At the moment, New World wines are very popular by both the bottle and the glass. Even though we're a gastro pub, France is rather out of favour, except at the top end, say, above £30.

But Chile, South Africa and New Zealand are all going well -quite often with wines that are a blend of two or three grapes rather than just single varietals. Rosé is a big seller, but only in the summer - we do next to nothing in the winter months.

We've found that the best way to get people to trade up is to offer, say, two Sauvignon Blancs by the glass - one cheap and one more expensive. You can often get people to take the more expensive one if your bar staff suggest it.

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