With a busy summer rapidly approaching, pub owners and operators are making seasonal changes to their wine selection to get the most out of the festivities ahead. The way in which patrons perceive a venue can be greatly impacted by the wine offering, making it crucial to stay attuned to the changing preferences of customers.

Adjusting your wine offering with the seasons, and reducing your winter warmers to make way for refreshing whites and rosés, caters to different tastes and occasions while showing versatility. Thomas French, general manager at the Warradale Hotel, spoke about the changes he’s made for spring and summer.

“We have less full-bodied reds, making way for lighter style rosés and Pinot, and expanding out some of our white offers. Our winter reds, Shiraz and Grenache blends, are swapping out for lighter Pinot and straight Grenache through the summer.

“With rosé in particular, we’re coming off the full sugar and going into a dryer, high-acid style which is refreshing. If we’re talking white wines, we’ve seen a big decline in New Zealand Sauvignon demand, with Adelaide Hills and local wines dominating this time of year.

“Sparkling wine is heavily activated over the Spring Racing Carnival season which then leads into Christmas, with a big rosé and sparkling focus while people go into celebration mode.”

End of year festivities are a great time to capitalise on premium wine sales, and it proves worthwhile to hold a selection of mid- to high-range Champagne for celebratory moments. Offering something special over the festive period encourages customers to create memorable experiences, but there is still high demand for affordable sparkling options, as explained by Eduardo Fritis-Lamor, head sommelier at The Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills.

“Champagne alternatives like Prosecco, Pet Nat and local sparkling are becoming extremely popular. It’s a massive part of end of year and Christmas festivities and with a hot summer approaching there will be lots of bubbles in the sun.”

Seasonal specials

As the weather starts to heat up, and winter wine selections are swapped for lighter, more refreshing options, the main consideration is which varietals will be popular over the course of summer. Siobhan Needham, general manager at The Old Synagogue in Fremantle, explained which white varietals will be big movers this year.

“With customer knowledge increasing we are seeing our patrons diverting from the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc.

“Pride of place is seen with Margaret River Chardonnays going strong with the less wood, more fruit-driven style of Chardonnay. With the rise of Italian and interesting varietals also on the move, it’s great to see producers have had the foresight to plant these.”

One varietal that particularly gains momentum over the course of summer is rosé, its light and refreshing nature making it a go-to option on hot summer days. Pairing well with seafood, chicken, fresh salads and charcuterie platters, rosé can also enhance a dining experience.

“Summer of rosé really is a thing and there is nothing better than a bottle of Mon Tout Strange Love Rosé on Mr Chapple’s rooftop overlooking the Freo cappuccino strip,” said Needham.

Tim Fitzgerald, CEO at Colonial Leisure Group (CLG), has identified a preference for rosé and sparkling wines across the group’s venues, with consumers leaning towards premium purchases within these categories, a trend that is likely to continue through summer.

“Rosé as a category has seen the most growth, [..] Australia is also now the sixth largest Champagne market in the world, up one position from last year.

“Both are signs of a push towards premium wines which has been a feature of post-covid trade, and for us this aligns with trends across most categories for on-premise drinking. As a country we may be drinking less, but when we do, we’re doing it better.”

With the season of celebrations just around the corner, Needham agrees that sparkling varieties will continue to have their moment in the coming months.

“Australian sparkling and specifically WA sparkling has never been better and deserves more recognition. Idée Fixe, Leeuwin Estate & Howard Park Jeté are making some of the best to rival Champagne, great for celebrating those Christmas functions or just celebrating summer.”

Not only are consumers looking for a more premium experience on-premise, Fitzgerald explained that increased consumer knowledge has also piqued an interest in more diverse varietals.

“[We expect to see] the growth in popularity of alternate varietals and previously somewhat obscure blends, in lieu of traditional Victorian favourites such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as the production costs associated with those grape varietals and regions puts pressure on our ability to pour them at a reasonable by the glass price.”

This is an extract from a feature first published in the October issue of Australian Hotelier. To keep reading about the different wine consumption trends by age bracket, as well as the push towards wine education in pubs, view the full article below.

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