Wine trends: In vine fettle

By Jessica Harvey Jessica

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine Chardonnay

When it comes to wine, few Brits will admit that they don't know whether Rioja is a grape or a region. But there's no denying we have a taste for it...

When it comes to wine, few Brits will admit that they don't know whether Rioja is a grape or a region. But there's no denying we have a taste for it - in 2007 the UK was the world's biggest importer of wine, with 1.6 billion bottles being brought into the country, according to wine exhibition Vinexpo.

Clare Griffiths, vice-president of European consumer marketing for Constellation Europe, says: "Although this year has undoubtedly been tough for the on-trade, figures for the last 13 weeks showing growth of 1.2 per cent hint at green shoots of recovery." And Constellation has reason to feel optimistic, with its flagship wine brand Hardys once again sponsoring Channel 4's hit TV show Come Dine With Me this year. It also saw the brand take the top spot in the Millward Brown poll for 'spontaneous consumer awareness'.

And last autumn managed giant JD Wetherspoon added Hardys Private Bin Chardonnay and Hardys Private Bin Shiraz to its listings, offering the Australian brand a distribution push.

Another stalwart of the British pub scene with enviable presence is Stowells, which boasts more than 6,000 stockists and 8,000 distribution points. This makes it a "voice of authority on wine for the on-trade", says Griffiths, adding that the brand has recently developed a comprehensive on-trade support package to help licensees maximise profits from their wine offering.

Meanwhile, Blossom Hill, a staple of the British on-trade, has benefited from its promotional push as the 'wine of Wimbledon' of late. The Californian wine brand, which received a 28 per cent increase in marketing spend this year compared with last, has been mentioned on TV, radio, billboards and online in an effort to stay in the minds of customers perusing the chalkboards.

Blossom Hill, which according to its owner Diageo celebrated a six per cent increase in volume in the run-up to Christmas last year, also held its position within the 21-30 bracket of The Publican's 200 best-selling brands. Impressive.

"The consumer love affair with pinot grigio has certainly continued into 2010," says Griffiths, adding that other popular varietals such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay would also benefit from being offered and "allocated prominent fridge space to maximise the associated profit opportunity". Another wine list 'must' is a decent rosé offering. Rosé wine has rocketed this year with an increase in volume of 22.8 per cent compared with last year, according to CGA. "The trend towards rosé wine continues to gain momentum; in fact, 87 per cent of total volume growth in recent years is attributable to rosé," adds Griffiths, advising that "licensees should ensure a broad range of chilled rosé wine is available to meet the demands of their (predominantly female) client base".

The popularity of Chilean wine with the pub-going public also remains undimmed, with Concha Y Toro climbing the charts this year - the brand is best known for its Casillero del Diablo variety, which is easily recognised by its 'devil' branding. Pernod Ricard, meanwhile, is set to attract newcomers to its already well-known Australian wine brand Jacob's Creek with a new campaign. The 'True Character' drive aims to help people select wine to suit their palates.

With our eyes peeled for new trends, sparkling wine is experiencing good growth this year. According to CGA data, sparkling wine has recorded a 10.1 per cent lift in volumes this year and is no longer considered solely as a drink for celebrations. Instead, a glass of fizz is now being enjoyed as an everyday drink and growth is expected to continue.

In keeping with the vogue for local sourcing, English wine is pegged to be the next new trend. Camel Valley Wines from Cornwall recently picked up an International Wine Challenge Trophy, beating competing champagne houses, proving a glass of English bubbly is something to be admired these days. Publicans looking for a premium-styled footfall driver suited to a pub with even wet/dry split might consider offering sparkling wine or an English rosé by the glass.

A grape British wine list

Becky Newman, licensee of the Bricklayer's Arms in London's Putney, tells Jessica Harvey how an all-English wine menu came to be launched in her pub.

"It all began with there being trouble with supply," explains Becky.

"Due to issues with the euro and the pound, French wines were more expensive than some of our other premium wines on the list. Then there was the Chilean earthquake, which meant our whole merlot stock was annihilated overnight.

"We'd already carved out a niche as a real ale pub and I thought it was time I turned my attention to the wines. We've got some fantastic English vineyards now and it's a great way to decrease your carbon footprint as well as support home-grown talent," says Becky, adding that to begin with, like everyone else, she was sceptical about the quality of English wine. "When these vineyards started appearing in the early 80s, I thought I'd be lucky if I found a couple of decent wines," she recalls.

"But English wines are beating champagnes in blind tastings now, plus most English vineyards are open all the time and you can just walk in - they're so friendly. I've always visited breweries and known how friendly they are, but I wasn't sure what to expect with vineyards. I thought they might be a little more aloof, but they were fantastic. I'm ashamed I didn't do this ages ago."

On the back of stocking a completely English wine menu, the Bricklayer's Arms has formed a wine club and holds tastings on Mondays, fitting in one visit a week to a new vineyard. Then, on September 9, the pub will hold an official launch of its new wine menu, complete with its new listings. "We already do two beer festivals and one cider festival, so we're already on the map - we're hoping to hold a wine festival soon too," says Becky. "The English wine we are now tasting is amazing, it's really changed and the vineyards are doing so well. The first place I visited was Biddenden Vineyard in Kent - I just called up and asked if I could have a tour. What I love about it all is there's a transparency of production here. I have seen the vineyards and I can see who's doing what."

She adds that "the trend has got a lot to do with people being aware of good ingredients," a factor she also links to the resurgence of the real ale market. "People have had enough of cold, fizzy lagers and seek something that's not only a quality product, but also tastes great. Drinkers want quality and they also like to know where something comes from," she says. English wine delivers.

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