Muscat is more a family of grapes than a single variety and (as I discovered to my embarrassment when I was learning about wines) Muscat bears no relationship with the Muscadet wine. It grows in most vine-friendly climates, including the Rhône Valley, Italy (where it is called Moscato) and Austria (where it is called Muskateller).
Pinot Grigio is the name of the pinot gris variety where grown in Italy. It is called malvoisie in the Loire Valley. In Germany and Austria pinot gritio is known as the Ruländer or Grauer Burgunder (also known as the same in the German settled areas of Australia) and it also grows in the western coastal regions of the US.
Once you’ve chosen the wines you want to stock and worked out the mark-up and pricing, created your wine list and produced the finished article you will need to sell it. Training your staff is as vital in selling wine as it is in selling your food or your real ales. They need to know about the wines you offer and be able to talk them up to customers so make sure they know what wines are available, they understand any tasting notes and feel confident when recommending wines to your customers.
Food and wine matching has relaxed greatly over the past decade and the snobbishness of “foodies” and wine lovers alike has given way to customers drinking what they like with whatever they eat. My advice is that the stronger the taste of food, then the stronger taste of wine you might offer to accompany it. Click here to download a useful little chart that pairs some popular wine types and food groups.
Some wine suppliers will offer you free training, after all it’s in their interests for you and your staff to sell as much as possible. Talk to them and ask for their assistance, if they won’t or don’t then consider changing your supplier.
You might consider a wine and cheese night to introduce a new wine list and to keep interest alive in your offering a wine of the month.
Make sure that you offer wine by the glass as well as by the bottle and remember that as of October 1st 2010 you must, by law, offer wine in 125ml servings as well as any other size you offer.
Much is made of wine tasting, how to do it, what to look for in terms of colour, taste, smell etc and for many this art or science (whichever school of thought you subscribe to) is a mystery DrinkedIn, a group on the social media site LinkedIn has produced an “infographic” on the subject … click here to download it. To complete your “education” as a wine buff the people at Bluffer’s Guide have produced the Bluffer’s Guide To Wine which you can download by clicking here.
Now a word or two on wine vintages…
The vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. Many wine experts would argue that it also gives an indication of the weather conditions in which the grapes grew and the quality of these grapes.
Given the quality of wine that most pubs will serve, in my experience vintages only serve as “shorthand” for assessing the rough attributes of wines produced in a certain region. Predicting any wine’s quality from weather conditions is much too subjective. Wine tasting is a much more reliable method and trying to judge wines from the vintages is nearly useless you are a professional sommelier or an avid wine buff.
In order to maximise your sales you will need to offer wines across the maximum number of price points, so consideration of how you calculate your gross margin is very important. In order to make your wines as attractive as possible and not price your premium wines out of your micro-marketplace you might consider the following proposal. Don’t use a straight profit percentage as your premium wines will be too pricy, instead use what is called a blended margin calculation. You take a gross profit percentage, say 50%, and add a standard cash mark up value to each bottled purchased, say £3.00 a bottle. This will give you a smoother retail price increase (and profit) profile across your range and will prevent your top end wines becoming over-expensive.
An experiment in 2001 at the University of Bordeaux had wine experts taste a red and white wine, to determine which was the best. They dutifully explained what they liked about each wine but what they didn’t realise was that scientists had just dyed the same white wine red and told them it was red wine. The tasters described the sorts of berries and tannins they could detect in the red wine as if it really was red. Another test had them judge a cheap bottle of wine and an expensive one. They rated the expensive wine much more highly than the cheap, with much more flattering descriptions. It was actually the same wine. It’s not to say wine-tasting is pointless, it’s to show that expectation can radically change experience. The moral of this story? You don’t have to stock the most expensive wines to attract customers, you can stock quality wines at relatively low cost to you and your customers; it also means that you may charge a premium for quality (say from wines recommended in newspaper reviews) if you support your pricing with assurances of quality. The trick is to balance profit with value for money quality assurance.
Top Tips – if you are likely to continually change supplier or wines to achieve the best cost prices then keep your wine list generic to the types of wine you stock. This will drastically reduce the number of times you have to review and reprint your wine list or food menus. It will also make it simpler for staff and customers alike to know what you stock. It will also enable you to offer more than one producer for any type of wine and thus accommodate the majority of your customers.
Wine drinkers baffled by experts’ descriptions: A survey of 1,000 wine drinkers by One Poll has found the most baffling descriptions. More than half of wine drinkers who took part in the survey (55%) said the descriptions given to wines failed to help them get an understanding of the flavour. Those expressions found most confusing were the phrases “firm skeleton” (designated least useful by 37%), “old bones” (35%), “nervy” (31%) “wet stone” (27%), “tongue spanking” (21%), “haunting” (21%), “spring hedgerows” (19%) and “brooding” (18%). Other terms found puzzling included: “vegetal”, “leathery”, “chunky”, “canny” and “minerality”. The most helpful terms were “fresh” (considered useful by 47%), “zesty” (43%) and “peachy” (31%). All the terms used in the survey were taken from the bottles or websites of leading wine brands, or recent reviews by leading wine critics
For an entertaining and informative online wine knowledge base head on over to The Wine Anorak even if your supplier doesn’t stock the recommendations Jamie Goode makes, you’ll be able to find out what’s good and what’s not and talk to your supplier about similar wines.
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