European Wine Trends

In global economy, power is in the hands, or palate, of the consumer

In recent decades, the international wine market has been dictated by the epicenters of classic production. But the economic climate has created a new consumer-directed approach. The masses are making their presence felt by adjusting the hows and how muches of their enjoyment.

The wine world, however, isn’t spinning off its axis. In fact, this rebalancing of the industry is creating new opportunities. By understanding what consumers want, restaurants can avoid the gimmicks, better educate their staff, and deliver better service one glass at a time.

“A good wine is like an old friend,” muses Trevor Gulliver, CEO of London’s One Michelin Star restaurant St. John. “Because wine is about memories and quality; it ain’t about price.”

Gulliver reminds us that the first thing to remember is why we pour wine and educate our guests about it in the first place. Left to their own resources, many consumers will purchase wine based on the price tag, not the quality. Blossom Hill, roughly £5, or $7.90 per bottle, is the No. 1 selling wine in the United Kingdom. But Gulliver says, “It is not worth bottling that stuff and sending it across the sea.”

In this time of economic downturn, how do we get the consumer to realize the value of wine, looking beyond the sticker price?

“Despite the recession, fizz is still all the rage,” says Fionnuala Synnott of London’s One-Michelin-Star restaurant Pollen Street Social. “It is surprising how much people are prepared to pay for a glass of Champagne.”

She goes on to note that this particular success is in no small part due to brilliant marketing. Through successful marketing campaigns convincing a thirsty public that there was such a thing as “everyday Champagne,” sales of Prosecco and other effervescent offerings have steadily risen over recent years.

Justin Leone, head sommelier at Munich, Germany’s two-Michelin-Star restaurant Tantris, says this trend holds true in Deutschland as well. “Not just Champagne, but ‘grower’ Champagne is strong. The Germans, like the English, know how to drink Champagne.” He stops and laughs. “And a lot of it!”


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