Wine Wisdom - we ask pubs for their tips on driving wine sales

By Chris Losh

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine sales Cabernet sauvignon Chardonnay Wine

We ask pubs for their tips on driving wine sales The Bell, Skenfrith, Abergavenny, Wales,, Tel: 0870 4016270 Talking to William...

We ask pubs for their tips on driving wine sales

The Bell, Skenfrith, Abergavenny, Wales,, Tel: 0870 4016270

Talking to William Hutchings

Set in the tiny village of Skenfrith in South Wales, the Bell is an old 17th-century coach house - and one that needed a fair bit of work when the current owners took it over five years ago. One and a half years of restoration and renovation later, it is now both a locals' local, a locals' restaurant and a magnet for Londoners seeking breathable air on long weekends.

The food (described by owner William Hutchings as English/Welsh) is local, seasonal and home-made wherever possible. It's been good enough in the four years it's been open to garner two rosettes.

No of wines on list: 160, plus 73 half bottles, an amazing 22 pudding wines and three ports.

Wines by the glass: Seven red, six white, Brut and rosé Champagne.

Most Expensive wine on list: Mouton Rothschild 1986, £330

Typical mark-up: 30% to 40% under £20, 7% at the top end. I make a loss on the 1970 Montrose.

Best Sellers: 80% of what we sell is house wine. Customers trust us to make the right choice.

Biggest sellers are the Montagne Noire Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from the Languedoc.

Value countries: Spain, especially for the older wines, which never seem too expensive, even with five to 10 years of age.

Key to making wine sell: Two things: firstly, popular grapes. People will still ask for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Occasionally someone will ask for a specific country, usually Australia. Secondly, staff training. They taste a lot of the wines, decide which ones they like, then tend to recommend them! I used to sell a lot of Willi Opitz Pinot Noir when a particular barman was on!

Events: We've just had a Nicolas Potel dinner, six courses and seven wines. We also have occasional tastings. I'm planning to run tastings and certainly one dinner in 2005.

Key supplier: Lay & Wheeler

The Crooked Billet, Newlands Lane, Stoke Row, Henley on Thames, Tel: 01491 681 048,

Talking to Paul Clerehugh

Bought by current owner, self-taught chef Paul Clerehugh in 1989, the Crooked Billet has attracted discerning seekers of good food, those who like "proper" pubs with real olde time atmosphere and celebs alike, holding Kate Winslet's wedding reception a few years ago.

As Clerehugh admits, the pub's remote location ensures that it's the ultimate destination establishment. Inglenook fireplaces, beams, low ceilings and flagged floors abound. It's largely untouched state since it was first licensed in 1700 extends to the bar - or lack of it. Drink orders are taken by staff and then brought up from the cellar - something that Dick Turpin would doubtless recognise; the highwayman is reckoned to have had a fling with the landlord's daughter when he stayed here in the 18th century.

Type of food served: A wide-ranging menu with Olde English, Mediterranean, Californian and Eastern dishes - but no fusion.

No. of wines on list: 60 or so regulars, 20 by the glass and another 10 or 20 specials on the board.

House wines: None. If people don't know what they're doing, they order house wines as a default, but I think we can do a bit better than that. If the staff are clued up, they can offer help.

Most expensive wine on the list: Louis Latour Chassagne Montrachet at £50.

Typical mark-up: You can't work to a fixed percentage. Most of our mark-ups are around £10 a bottle.

Which regions offer the best value?: Eastern Europe is excellent. Also non-Rioja Spain and unfashionable Italians. Anything we don't know can be a good price. That's the key to a good wine list: not listening to what your supplier recommends and picking out wines of your own!

Main supplier: Folio Wines.

Most popular wines: De Neuville Chenin Blanc - a Vin de Pays from the Loire. The Spanish Con Class white is excellent, too.

Any trends you're seeing?: Classical French is back in. Five years ago it was all New World, but people have tired of the big fruit of the reds.

Do you run events?: Yes, but since we're a tied pub we get no help from our suppliers; we have to do it all ourselves. Still, we do blind tastings and themed evenings, and sometimes manage to get celebs down like Keith Floyd or Antony Worrall Thompson. We have to buy all the wines ourselves and work them into the price of the ticket. Because of its location, this is the sort of pub that would have closed down and gone residential, we've had to market it quite aggressively.

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