Punch's brave New World

Related tags Punch taverns Alcoholic beverage Wine Wine list

The bulk of pub wine lists rarely turn me on ­ still far too many dog-eared laminated cards displaying one dull wine after another. Hello. Haven't...

The bulk of pub wine lists rarely turn me on ­ still far too many dog-eared laminated cards displaying one dull wine after another. Hello. Haven't you noticed what's going on in the high street? The licensee can't be bothered, doesn't feel his customers are interested or is too daunted by it to offer anything more. Well, Punch Taverns has had enough. Last month it launched its new wine list, with, shall we say, a tad more vigour than it has done in the past.

Don't get too excited. The wine boxes are still there, so are the Liebfraumilchs and Piesporters, which are still making up a scary percentage of sales. But there are more new wines from the New World and a whole bunch of new sales initiatives, including how to train up your staff, and how to sell better wine. "The on-trade will be one of the biggest growth areas in the next few years," predicts Punch Taverns' wine guy, David Glew.

Dedicated wine mag launched

Glew's response, along with colleague Julie Blake, was to launch its Connect to Wine magazine, on3 April, which includes wine promotional support galore and food-and-wine matching tips. This was followed, on 3 May, by their new wine list. "It makes sense to get in there early," adds Glew. To be fair, Punch Taverns has a big job. With nearly 8,000 pubs, from back-street boozers to flashy gastro types, it is pitching at businesses with wildly fluctuating wine sales. Its estate ranges from pubs where wine accounts for only 1% of the business, to pubs where it accounts for 40% of drinks takings, with percentages nearer the former making up the vast majority of Punch Taverns' business.

So what's new? Well, the total offering has been increased from 350 to 380 wines (up from 130 wines two years ago), extending the range by 47 new wines. What's been ditched? Gallo Colombard, for starters, in favour of a Gallo branded blend. What's been added? Yup, even more brands, such as Californian range and on-trade exclusive Jack Rabbit from Constellation. "We believe that many of our customers want more obviously-branded wines ­ we've spent a lot of time in the last year looking at what's selling in the supermarkets," explains Glew.

On-trade exclusives highlighted

And this year, for the first time, the list indicates which wines are on-trade exclusives, after talking to a cross-section of retailers who want to stock wines not available on the high street in a bid to make themselves stand out.

There are still, however, plenty of retailers who want to offer wines that customers are already familiar with, regardless of the obvious price comparison issue. "I believe if the retailer has got the right offering, in the right environment, then it's not an issue," says Glew.

Blossom Hill, Jacob's Creek and their ilk are still doing it for Punch, and more importantly have been steadily drawing drinkers away from Liebfraumilch & co. "It's a step up. There's been a 30% shift away from Liebfraumilch in the last 12 months," Glew reports.

Also new for this year is Wine Options ­ "a quick, easy way to access a comprehensive wine list to suit your trading style".

I rather like Wine Options. It highlights those out for a quiet drink, or a night out with their mates, those out for a drink with a meal, or large groups on a big, boozy night out. It goes further, encouraging the retailer to examine customer traits, for example the young, free and singles, the focused mums, conservative men and the bread winners. Then it suggests wines to match, which the retailer can print up on Punch Taverns' personalised wine list, complete with tasting notes­ though Punch would just love it if the retailer knew enough about wine to be able to write up their own tasting notes.

Knowledge means sales power

The other big push for this year is wine education, encouraging retailers to take their Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 1 Foundation in Wines (Hospitality), and allowing staff to try the wines on the list with a series of tastings. "The benefits of this will soon be seen in increased sales," promises Connect to Wine. I'll second that.

Related topics Legislation Punch Pubs & Co

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