Drinks doctor: How can I make my wine list stand out?

05 May 2023 by
Drinks doctor: How can I make my wine list stand out?

Step away from the knee-jerk wine list choices and think differently with a selection that makes your customers think, says Lee Isaacs, Unity brand ambassador at Bidfood

Despite its name, a wine list is much more than just a list of wines. It is in fact a true reflection of the level of effort, thought and imagination that has gone into selecting the wines you're happy to put your name to. It's a direct point of contact between you and the customer. Your wine list should overflow with personality and transport customers further into your world.

Many wine lists look all too similar. We know there are easy wins and the wines that sell themselves, have consumer familiarity and require minimal training, such as New Zealand Sauvignon, Argentine Malbec and nondescript Merlot as top players in this game.

Look for new kinds of wine

As consumers have returned to the on-trade, there is a wonderful opportunity to expand both our own and our consumers' horizons. Recent Mintel statistics suggest that 54% of consumers enjoy the experience of looking for new drinks, and 44% have an interest in niche wine, therefore showing us that we shouldn't be playing it safe when it comes to creating wine lists. Wine is, after all, about the experience, so make sure every single wine on your list delivers.

Curate your wine list

Every wine on your list should have a solid reason for being there, otherwise, it's occupying dead space and tying up cash flow as you're ordering stock that isn't moving.

Take Châteauneuf-du-Pape for example, which is often used as a marker to give consumers confidence in the rest of the list. Most consumers recognise this cult classic as a ‘quality' wine, and while they may not buy it, they'll acknowledge your expertise by just seeing it. To build relationships and meaningful experiences, try listing a wine that sells and encourages conversation.

List the right bottles of wine

Back to that ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc. Ask yourself – why is that specific bottle listed? I hope you haven't answered with ‘price' or ‘margin', because your customers won't care about those! Sure, get something that is the right price and helps you deliver GP, but what are you going to tell your customer when they ask about this wine?

Instead, find a New Zealand Sauvignon that offers something unique, that fits with your own brand and ethos. It could be made by a female winemaker, have solid green credentials or an entertaining story about a man and his dog. Find its story, and make it part of your own.

English wines on the rise

Alternatively, swap out your classic Sauvignon Blanc by broadening your horizons and offering a delicious English Bacchus. It fits a similar taste profile and will be a definite talking point with your customers. Use the wine to build your rapport and relationship further.

Do the same with the omnipresent Argentine Malbec. How about substituting the Malbec for a Cabernet Franc? This will offer the customer the same thing they're looking for; a fuller, richer style of fruit-driven red wine, but give you more flexibility and generate more conversation. You'll also stand out from the ocean of overcooked berry fruit bombs everyone else is listing.

Finally, once your list is in place, get some solid training for your staff – not just on how the wines taste, but the best way to talk about them. Then your list will really burst to life!

Do you have a question for one of the Drinks Doctors? Send your query to drinks@thecaterer.com

Seasonal food and drink pairing: Barbecue and Cabernet Franc

We will soon be lighting the barbecue and we all know a Malbec fits the bill, but why not try Trapiche's Estacion 1883 Cabernet Franc? Bright cherry fruit married with dark berries and a hint of chocolate is rounded off with a savoury edge. Superb with a juicy burger.

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