Ben Canaider details what drops should be on your list this summer
At this time of year there are two things any good hospitality industry professional should be doing: (i) making sure the til is well oiled; and (ii) stocking the shelves and fridges with summertime wines. Not just any old summer wines, however; you’ve got to go for the wines of the new sunny season. We have broken these wines down into six sub-categories, all designed for you to spruik as we head into 2010. And you’ll be doing this because wine is as much a part of fashion as music, hairdos, or frocks. More importantly, if you don’t keep up to speed with wine trends then you’re relegated to second division without even firing a shot.
There’s no avoiding the need for a re-invention when it comes to white wines over summer time. Of course you’ll keep your backbone of ubiquitous chardonnays and sauvignon blancs on the list—because they still manage to sell themselves. But you need to underscore their never-ending presence on the wine list with a statement or two.
Vermentino could be your new varietal. From its home in Sardinia, this grape has taken to vineyards around the Murray River quite well, and is producing a minerally, flavourful wine with notes of tropical and stone fruits. Try Chamlers Vermentino 2008 ($13 LUC).
And for an alternative to sav blanc and chardy, give pinot grigio a good push this summer. I say this for two reasons: firstly when this grape variety is made in the grigio style and not the gris manner, it is a more refreshing, light, lemony white wine. The alcohol is lower in grigio than in gris, and it therefore makes a good hot weather drink. Secondly, pinot grigio is a little undervalued in Australia, so LUC prices should make it an attractive proposition. Two Tasmanian examples are worth trialling: Ninth Island and 42 Degrees South. They land at about $15.
New imported takes on trusted whites
Back now to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. If you want to expand the intellectual game with regard to these wines varieties then you need to go offshore. For a new take on chardonnay try some Petit Chablis, from the outlying regions of Chablis proper. William Fevre Petit Chablis is the first port of call for listings in Australia, and it lands at about $20, providing the kind of chalky and dry-finishing white wine that Chablis is all about.
And for a posh version of sav blanc, go back to where it all began: Sancerre. Chateau de Sancerre has good distribution in Australia, and delivers the rather more understated bright green tang of the sauvignon blanc grape when grown in France’s Loire Valley. ($25 LUC).
One other wine to look out for this summer is Albarino. This imported Spanish white has richness and texture, but good acidity, too, keeping it upright. Castro Martin Albarino lands at about $20.
Tapas and a recent love-affair with Spanish food and wine in general has seen good growth in this wine category. Spanish fino styles by the half-bottle—at about 15 per cent ABV—are as good a way as any to get people through a shared first course. These are tangy, flavourful and dry wines that need to be sold on the back of Spanish cuisine’s glossy mag success. Look for screw-capped bottles, particularly the manzanilla styles, from the cooler seaside region of Sanlucar de Barrameda (LUC’s approximately $12).
If manufacturing is anything to go by then rosé has really established itself as a viable third wine style in Australia. There’s white wine, there’s red wine, and now there’s pink. Rosé makes sense: it’s a foil for hot and humid weather and—more importantly for hospitality owner/operators—it provides another angle. It also suits a diverse range of foods and cuisines, and it is a very informal drink. The only thing to watch for when stocking rose is the ABV: as long as the flavour’s OK, go for examples weighing in under 13.5 per cent; this way the wine won’t burn the tastebuds of your customers.
Lower alcohol whites
The fact that some of the bigger Australian wine companies have actively entered this area of the wine market speaks volumes. White and red wines from Lindeman’s Early Harvest range have been marketed principally to women wine drinkers as a product lower in alcohol but not short on quality or sophistication. I’m not so sure about the last point (the sophistication thing) but there’s no doubting that some wine drinkers do not give a hoot what anyone might be thinking about their drink, just so long as that drink contains less alcohol than standard table wine. As a hospitality professional, offering obviously low-alcohol wines over the bar or on the wine list could be a decision that might effect your reputation. And perhaps too many customers still think going out is not about health benefits but about enjoying oneself—so why drink low-alcohol wine? There’s another angle, however: Australian riesling and Hunter Valley semillon are wines often registering only 10 per cent, 11 per cent, or maybe 12.5 per cent ABV. Selling them as wine with slightly less alcohol might be a good tactic on the floor of the restaurant, or as a small note in the wine list.
And the NZ SB clause…
Sorry: there’s no solution. You’ve simply got to keep stocking and selling this wine. The good news for restaurateurs is that with even more of this stuff being manufactured in NZ, prices for it will keep competing and dropping. Quality, low-cropped, well-made NZ SB is around, of course; but it is $20 LUC or more. There’s savvy from NZ for much less than that, however, and as the joke goes: What’s the difference between good Kiwi Sav Blanc and bad Kiwi Sav Blanc? Everything—and absolutely nothing. It is a phenomenon and a brand, not a wine; it’s a default ordering position, not a connoisseur’s demand. And thank goodness for that. Keep stocking it and hope the dream never ends.