With so many wines available to us in the trade selecting the right wines needs a plan!
First and foremost, they need to reflect the personality of the bar and the food offering. Clearly you would not want a list littered with new world wines in a Spanish tapas bar!
Similarly, the style of food on offer has to be key when deciding which wines would complement the menu dishes, all the points in the world won't overcome a mismatch of food and wine.
Consider the seasons - we all have tastes that change on a hot summers day from heavy warming dishes to lighter foods that require the wine to follow suit.
Check that every wine you have added to your list has a reason to be there and fulfils a purpose, whether that be style, food, seasonality, or price point.
And of course, like all other drinks, customers do like to experiment and learn something new when they are drinking socially. Wine offers as many opportunities to tell new stories, and introduce new flavours as any other category of drink. It certainly can provide many examples of craftsmanship, provenance and history which are fascinating.
Here's a wine map of flavours that can be used a guide to food pairing and seasonality, and we've added in bubbles - don't forget the bubbles! A treat, a celebration, a trade up, they are now an essential part of any wine list.
Wine has always carried a bit of mystique with it. Getting to grips with some simple factors that make up the wines flavour and character, makes drinking, and recommending wine to your customers all the more enjoyable.
One of the most influential factors affecting the taste of wine is the grape variety or varieties from which it is made. Even though there are thousands of varieties planted we tend to pick wines from just a small selection of these.
Here are the other influencers;
The French word 'terroir' refers to the complete environmental impact of factors such as climate, altitude and soil, which all play a part in the flavour of the wine. It's this terroir that can distinguish flavour profiles from one vineyard to another and even within a specific plot of vines.
Altitude has a big impact on grapes especially in hot areas. Not only do grapes need to reach a specific sugar ripeness but it is essential that flavours within the grape are given time to develop fully. High altitude vineyards enable this to happen. With a cooler longer growing season and greater range between day and night time temperatures, the grapes are given time to develop a complex array of flavours. Those vines at low altitudes may rely on cooling onshore sea breezes to slow down maturation.
Some of the world's most expensive wines are oak aged. However, this isn't an option for all wine producers. With a 225litre oak barrique costing anything upwards of 300 euros, the use of oak is a big consideration. Equally, not all wines will benefit from the use of oak. Producers making everyday drinking wines who want oaky flavours, might decide to use cheaper alternatives such as oak chips.
Other factors such as the type of wood, the amount of charring and the age of the barrel all have a huge impact on the flavour of the final wine. Whilst New American oak imparts sweeter vanilla notes, older French barrels will have a much more subtle impact on the wine. The size of the barrel will also affect the wine. In a large barrel the proportion of wine in direct contact with the wood is reduced which has more influence on texture than taste.
These factors give winemakers tools to deliver a wide range of flavours, therefore for the wine drinker it is like all things wine, a matter of personal preference.
Found in the skins, stems and pips of grapes, as well as in wooden barrels, tannin is a vital preserving ingredient.
Some wine is made to be aged for many years, some enjoyed in its youth. In all cases the important thing is that any tannin present should not overpower the fruit. Green, unripe tannins taste unpleasant in a young wine and rarely improve with age. Ripe, well-managed tannins, on the other hand, may often be described as 'silky' or 'harmonious'.
As wine gets older, it's flavour profile will change; sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Tannins will soften, compounds called esters will be formed with the interaction of acidity and raw alcohol and primary fruit flavours will evolve into complex bouquets.
Wines are at their best when the alcohol, fruit and tannins are in perfect balance. How long the wine will remain at its best is determined by many factors and knowing when to drink a wine can be difficult. That said most wines tend to be released once they are ready to drink.
Our wine drinking is subjective. It's not a question of what's right or wrong, but of making informed decisions about the wines you and your customers are likely to enjoy across a variety of price ranges. Tasting wine is the sensory examination and evaluation of the wine. The process can be broken down into five steps; colour, swirl, smell, taste and savour.
Take a good look at the colour of the wine.White wines which may vary from pale straw to deep golden in colour deepen as they age, so the colour can tell you something about maturity.
Reds, on the other hand, develop a brownish tint with age. The first signs of maturation are visible at the rim of the wine, so tilt the glass to see how the colour changes.
In sparkling wines, the 'mousse', or the column of bubbles rising from the core of the glass, is key. Small, persistent bubbles indicate good quality, whereas larger bubbles, suggest that carbon dioxide has been added, rather than produced by the process of secondary fermentation which creates the best fizz.
Swirl the wine in the glass to release the compounds in the wine which highlights the 'nose' or 'bouquet'. Broadly you can divide this stage into three areas;
Primary Aromas - fruit aromas from the grape variety, floral and herb notes. Secondary Aromas - which will come from winemaking practices where you might detect nutty or beery notes.
Tertiary Aromas - might come from ageing; more complex notes of spice, flowers and other elements such as cedar or leather.
Smell is a more sensitive and complex sense than taste. There are over 10 million receptor cells high in the nasal cavity, which are stimulated by sensations which can't be tasted. This might include mustiness as well as aromas of oak and spice.
Pinpoint what you can smell, don't search for what others smell. In a young wine, you may not detect very much. Try it again later when it has had more contact with the air or has been decanted.
Different parts of the tongue register different tastes. For this reason, work the wine all around the mouth to ensure it comes into contact with all these receptors, have a sloosh and a slurp!Hold the wine in the mouth for a few moments to allow the taste buds to become saturated then make an assessment on sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, body flavour characteristics and intensity. After swallowing or spitting, how long does the flavour of the wine stay with you? Does it have a long or short finish?
The key is to record your own impressions, using terminology which means something to you. Looking for flavours experienced by others is not the way to develop that essential personal record which may be 20 words or 200.
Nectar can provide you with the supplier tasting notes which are a great place to start if only to provide something to disagree with, and blank tasting sheets to start your own record.
Temperature definitely matters in the world of wine, and if you're serious about serving delicious wine your customers will want to try again, you need make sure you know where your wine is stored and at what temperature. Why is it important? The right temperature will release the right flavours and aromas from the wine.
So, having gone to all the trouble of finding your perfect wine list, make sure it's at its best when it's in front of the customer. If in any doubt, it's always better to serve wine on the cool side; as soon as it is in the glass, and in the customer's hands, it will warm up a little.
Red wine should be served at room temperature but this doesn't mean sat-next-to-the radiator warm.
Such as Pinot Noir can be served slightly chilled.
Such as oaked Chardonnay can be served slightly warmer than fridge temperature.
Must be cool but not too cold.
Chill well, otherwise the bubbles will disperse too quickly. If sparkling wine is too warm you also risk the cork exploding out of the bottle when you open it.
Many whites - especially bigger wines like Chardonnay or Voignier will be a little colder than recommended when they come out of the fridge. If they are then plunged into an ice bucket they will never get the chance to display their taste as they will if you allow them to warm just a little.
Offer a chilled red and clearly mark them as such on the wine list - it shows knowledge and care about the wines you are serving. Many of the punchy and popular Aussie Shiraz and delicate Beaujolais or Pinot Noir benefit from a quick ice bath especially in warm weather.
We know that creating a wine list is really important to your business and your sales success. We have locally based Nectar representatives who can help who are WSET trained.
Using their extensive experience in the trade they can guide you as to what will work best in your establishment and tailor a list to you. Once you have your choices they can support the design and print process making your wine list look great as well as deliver the margins you need at no additional cost to you.
We also have Sam Killbery our Wine Development Manager who has a vast amount of knowledge about wines that can really help your business. He would be delighted to talk to you about any wine issue no matter how big or small.
So contact him and get going on your 2019 wine list today!