The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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Page 18 of 124

18 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2017 { bottom line } IS IT WISE TO FOLLOW MARKET TRENDS? In my experience, yes and no. For instance, according to the latest (January 2017) statistical report filed by Dr. Liz Thach, MW, Professor of Wine and Management at Sonoma State University, women still consume more wine than men at a rate of 57% to 43%. If you're running a restaurant wine program, it behooves you to know that skewing your selections, the wording on your wine list as well as your promotions slightly towards female clientele gives you a higher-percentage chance of success. It makes sense to please women first. On the other hand, I am a survivor of the early 1990s, when about 90% of what was consumed in restaurants was still either a fat, fruity Chardonnay or a pink, fizzy White Zinfandel. Sommelier hell. But somehow we got our guests to drink mostly Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris. How? By owning it. Telling them that this was best for our cuisine, and making it a specialty on our lists. Sure, we still sold boatloads of Chardonnay and White Zinfandel—but nowhere near 90%. The other upshot: Our business grew (yuge!), undoubtedly helped by the fact that they were drinking wines that made our food taste better. The finest restaurants serve up sensory experiences, not reams of statistics. By going with the trends and statistics, of course, you can make life easy for yourself. But being competitive in the restaurant industry demands more than that. It's just as important to carve out your own identity. This is also Business 101: Elite companies establish dif - ferentiation, and compete by leading rather than following. Another smart strategy? Taking trends and molding them to your benefit. To wit, four of Dr. Thach's other observations: • The single largest wine-consuming segment is now officially Millennials (age 22–39, skewing more towards the 30-somethings), followed by Boomers (age 53–71, skewing towards 50-somethings). • The five most popular wine categories are still, in this order, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, red wine blends, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. • Dry rosés, along with red wine blends, are among the fastest-growing wine categories. • Sauvignon Blanc sales (especially from New Zealand, or American brands fashioned in New Zealand styles) continue to rise. PHOTO: RAWPIXEL LTD VIA THINKSTOCK Trends, Schmends BEING COMPETITIVE MEANS MORE THAN FOLLOWING THE STATISTICS by Randy Caparoso A SURVIVOR'S ADVISORY: ■ Sell California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but look for crisper, balanced, more food-versatile alternatives—particularly those sourced from underrated regions such as Santa Cruz Mountains, Coombsville, Lake County or San Luis Obispo. It doesn't hurt to subterfuge bad taste with good taste. ■ If you haven't upped your game in your dry rosé (no longer just a "summer" wine) and red wine blend sections, you're still behind the eight ball. ■ There are more top-quality New World Sauvignon Blancs than anyone can shake a stick at; but for me, this steadily percolating interest is all the more an excuse to lead consumers back to the original, multifaceted styles of France (i.e., Quincy, Cheverny and Menetou-Salon on top of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre) or even other unbeaten-paths (Vouvray sec, Savennières, Montlouis, Muscadet, etc.). Millennials, after all, dig real. ■ Who doesn't doubt that today's Millennials will only increase their market significance even in their 40s? Ergo: The more diligently you work on your adjustments today, the stronger your chance of thriving in the future. The single largest wine- consuming segment is now officially Millennials.

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