Is this farewell to the fat wine tome?

A growing tendency for restaurants to adopt short, focused wine lists in favour of traditional doorstopper wine tomes has been identified as one of the key trends for 2017 by on-trade supplier Jascots.

L-R: Jascots Insights Briefing panellists James Ramsden, Anne Krebiehl MW and Jon Kleeman with Jascots head of buying and marketing Adam Porter

The prediction came as Jascots revealed the key on-trade insights to emerge from its survey of 240 wine lists from restaurants across the UK, undertaken between November 2016 and January 2017. The survey encompassed 18,640 wines and more than 300 grape varieties from 42 countries.

A presentation of the study findings was led by Jascots’ head of buying and marketing Adam Porter at the RSA in central London on 26 January. It was followed by a discussion, led by managing partner Miles MacInnes, with an expert panel consisting of James Ramsden, co-owner of Michelin-starred Pidgin restaurant in Hackney, Jon Kleeman, head sommelier of Social Eating House, and Master of Wine Anne Krebiehl.

Key trends identified included:

  • the prevalence of shorter and more accessible lists – exemplified by the list at James Ramsden’s Pidgin, which contains just three whites, three reds and one sparkling wine, along with a tiny selection of off-list ‘specials’;
  • English wine’s ‘coming of age’ and continuing to take market share from Champagne in the UK on-trade;
  • the rise of South America, with wines from Chile and Argentina predicted to appear more and more on UK wine lists;
  • Rhône varieties challenging Bordeaux and a broader move towards ‘alternative classics’ as Bordeaux and Burgundy become unaffordable;
  • the growth of ‘foodie’ white wines as the UK on-trade reaches ‘peak’ Sauvignon Blanc.

MacInnes reserved special mention for two of the survey’s insights: the trend towards smaller, curated wine lists, arising as part of the informal fine dining phenomenon, and the emergence of so-called ‘alternative classics’ – wines with the history, authenticity and provenance to match Bordeaux and Burgundy, but without the prohibitive price tag.

Regarding shortening lists, Jascots’ survey revealed a considerable consolidation of wine listings, with the total number of wines being listed by those polled in 2015 and 2016 declining nearly 10% overall.

“From a restaurant perspective I think what’s really interesting is this shorter list that’s out there,” he said, “which perhaps follows the menus, because there’s been that macro trend in London for the last five years that food menus are getting sorter and shorter, even down to single menu items menus.

“Wine lists are finally taking that kind of shape as well, and being more closely curated. Rather than being a library reference work, they’re very carefully chosen for the venue, and I think that’s a very positive thing.”

Alternative classics

MacInnes also drew attention to the emergence of ‘alternative classics’ in response to the increasingly prohibitive pricing of traditional classics Bordeaux and Burgundy. Such a trend, he said, could help to explain the prevalence of Gamay (and by extension Beaujolais) on UK wine lists. Jascots’ survey noted a 44% rise in Gamay listings since the same period last year.

MacInnes also identified Valpolicella and German wines as having the potential to fill the void left by inaccessible traditional classics. German fine wines, he said, had been neglected for decades but now represented “amazing value” because they haven’t seen inflation due to high demand.

Jascots’ Miles MacInnes (pictured with managing partner John Charnock and Andy Slaughter MP), believes the trend towards short, curated lists is positive for UK restaurants

“With this inevitable inflation, looking for a contemporary classic that isn’t Bordeaux, that isn’t Burgundy, could work because people are more receptive to trying something new,” he explained.

“Beaujolais has become completely decoupled from Burgundy in price. When I started in the trade 10 years ago your village Beaujolais was about the same price as your Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

“You’d have a Bourgogne Pinot Noir and a village Beaujolais at roughly £7 to £8 to sell to the trade. Now Beaujolais is maybe £9, but Bourgogne Pinot Noir is £15 and upwards.

“So that now suddenly represents really good value and it has those cues – people recognise the name, people love provenance, stuff they remember from the past has really power and Beaujolais fits into that really well.”

Jascots’ other trend predictions

Taking each of Jascot’s key insights in turn, the on-trade supplier also felt that 2017 would be the year in which English wine comes of age. Sparkling is the fastest-growing wine category and Jascots noted that its sales of sparkling wine had jumped 24% in the last year. Interestingly, Jascots’ Insights survey revealed that England had overtaken Spain to become the third most-listed sparkling wine producer (after Champagne and Italy, respectively).

Jascots recently expanded its English portfolio to include both sparkling and still wines from six homegrown producers: Harrow & Hope from Buckinghamshire, Nyetimber, and Bolney Estate from West Sussex, Three Choirs from Gloucestershire, Lyme Bay from Devon and Sixteen Ridges from Worcestershire.

A further trend towards ‘foodie’ white wines was predicted to pick up the slack as Sauvignon Blanc (the second most-popular white wine behind Chardonnay) listings fell from their peak, Jascots predicted. Lighter, aromatic, seafood-friendly wines such as Albarino, Picpoul, Cortese and Verdejo are growing between 16% and 35% year-on-year, its survey revealed, while rounder, more aromatic wines such as Viognier and Torrontes could stand up to the on-trend spicy and smoked street food-style dishes prevalent in UK restaurants. Southern Italian varieties such as Fiano, Falanghina and native Etna whites were also beginning to take root, Jascots said.

Next Jascots identified a shift away from Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends towards Rhône varieties and blends. Offering competitively priced options in both entry-level and premium options, Rhône reds were predicted to continue to play an important role in the year ahead.

Finally, South America was declared to be on the rise. Chilean red wine experienced the largest growth in red wine listings (+8.6% and +21% share of red wines), according to Jascots’ survey. Both Chile and Argentina were observed to be making inroads into the premium section of restaurant lists too.

One Response to “Is this farewell to the fat wine tome?”

  1. Bob Henry says:

    Your headline is a bit misleading.

    The headline suggested to me that I was about to read an article questioning whether “fat” printed wine books (think “Jancis Robinson’s Guide to Wine Grapes”) were going the way of the dinosaur in this online media content world.

    Imagine my surprise when the article turned out to be about pared down restaurant wine lists.

    A “head fake” as we Yanks say in a certain five player team sport.

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