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17% of venues not stocking Chardonnay although it's still the on-trade's biggest seller

Published:  20 June, 2016

A new report suggests that the trade isn't listening to the needs of its customers, with a damaging gap emerging between the nation's favourite drinks and what are on wine lists.

The report, from Crown Cellars, shows that 17% of venues are currently not stocking Chardonnay, even though it is the UK's biggest selling grape variety (WSTA).

Similarly, 11% are not listing Sauvignon Blanc, despite its place as the nation's third favourite drink behind Pinot Grigio in second place.

Kevin Patterson, marketing manager at Third Party Brands, thinks that ignorance of the important role Chardonnay plays in the UK on-trade and personal prejudice both go a long way to explaining this disconnect.

"A lot of it is down to personal preferences. Owners think 'I don't like Chardonnay so I'm not going to list it'. There's also this urban myth around Chardonnay that nobody drinks it, which is nonsense. One in five consumers aren't getting their drink of choice. It's still the trade's biggest seller so why wouldn't you stock it?"

The figures come from the first Future of On-Trade Wine report from Crown Cellars, the wine and spirits division of Carlsberg UK.

Conducted with over 1,000 wine consumers and 500 on-trade outlets country-wide, the aim of the research was to uncover whether the on-trade is meeting customer expectations when it comes to wine, with an emphasis on pre and post-millennials.

Crown Cellar's wine buyer Louise Boddington, said that the research revealed that previously established ideas about what millennials - those born from the 80s to the 00s - want from their wine is actually very different to previously-acceptable notions about this age-group.

She said: "A lot of the findings contradict how the trade feels about millennials. There is this perception that millennials are really interested in delving into the detail when it comes to wine. But actually, what we found that this is more the case when it comes to categories such as craft beer.

"Millennials actually want an easy way - almost an excuse - to get into wine."

The findings suggest that the younger generation connects best with strong visual displays which can compete with craft beers and ciders, and simple, engaging descriptors on wine lists.

When only 41% of wet-led pubs have wine lists, there is a long way to go, says Patterson.

"Craft beer is a new category for everyone so it's acceptable not to know about beer," he added. "It's not acceptable not to know anything about wine so consumers don't ask questions."

Also concerning is the disparity between what customers want and what the trade is willing to offer.

The biggest disparities were around range (countries and grape varieties), staff advice, temperature of wine and presentation.

In all of these areas, the trade scored themselves much higher than consumers did, with, 61% of the trade think that wine quality has improved in recent years compared to only 35% of customers.

Interestingly, the research shows that the trade has a more positive view of its wine offering than its customers.

A point shared by both the under and over 30 age groups is that both would like more choice and help with navigating wine lists.

"Part of the problem is that staff aren't as knowledgeable as they think they are," Boddington said.

"The trade doesn't invest enough in training and 28% of pubs don't think training is important. Not everyone has to be an expert but pub staff should be able to discuss at least one or two wines with confidence."


Other interesting facts:

  • 39% of customers feel that their wine is not served cold enough.
  • Millenials are twice as likely as over 30s to try a Riesling.
  • The top three red varietals in the on-trade are Merlot in top place, followed by Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • The top three white varietals are Chardonnay, followed by Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • 41% of wet-led pubs still don't offer a wine list.
  • 61% of the trade think that wine quality has got better in recent years compared to just 35% of customers
  • Wine awards are underutilised in the on-trade. Medals are a key influencer of decision in the off-trade and this can easily be replicated in the on-trade by highlighting medals on the menu or on chalk boards.
  • Customers want to see a good range of popular grape varieties at different price points that reflect what they are drinking at home.
  • Customers need to be encouraged to trade up. Offering a tiered range of the most popular grape varieties at different price points will help staff to encourage customers to trade up.
  • The importance of display is often overlooked. An eye-catching back-bar display, use of chalkboards, and prominent wine lists can increase wine sales.