Future Trends of an Exciting Wine List
It's Natural, says Beverley. Bryan's more cautious.
There’s definitely a massive trend towards natural wines, according to Beverly Mathews, owner of the L’Atitude 51 wine-bar in Cork. “Paris, London and New York are leading the way. People are looking specifically for natural wines. It’s a definite trend. Jean Foillard, who visited L’Atitude last year, is a star in Beaujolais. Aldi sold a natural orange wine last year and sold out quickly. Natural wines are full of character but can be quirky.”
Dalcassian Wines & Spirits came to Cork in force last week for a portfolio tasting. And very impressive it was too. It wasn’t all tasting of course and there was quite a bit of talking too. One of the best discussions came in a side room and was entitled Future Trends of an Exciting Wine List. Beverley and Bryan McCarthy (Head Chef at Greene’s Restaurant) were the main speakers; Jules Mahon, Business Development Manager with Dalcassian, was in the chair and smoothly facilitated a very interesting hour or so on the main subject.
Bryan wasn’t as convinced about natural wine’s progress saying world trends in food and wine don’t necessarily follow through in Ireland.
|L'Atitude 51, with natural wine-maker Thierry Puzelat (right)|
He admitted to being surprised when he began to work with Frank Schiltkamp a few years ago. “I work closely on the pairing with the somm. It is when we introduce a new dish that more cooperation is required and it was something new to me that I may have to take some element out of the new dish and then Frank will have a matching wine. It’s all about the balance between food and wine. Wines by the glass is a growing trend and we now have twenty by the glass.”
The chef has noticed that German, Austrian and Portuguese wines are becoming more sought after, though the “old” wines are still popular but thought that in the future they will be seen less.
|Bryan sees an increase in the popularity of Portuguese wines. This Reynolds range is part of the Dalcassian portfolio|
Beverley told us that L’Atitude is a fully licensed wine bar so they can serve a glass of wine without food and that “gives us flexibility to play around with wines. Wine is the most important element to us. We are a wine led bar.”
Jules then asked if there was a demand for lower ABV wines.
|Bushby’s Strawberries at Greene's, paired with Alasia Moscato d'Asti, a low alcohol frizzante|
Beverley said she gets lots of requests and that there is a definite demand for low alcohol drinks. Greene’s have introduced what they call “Sips” for couples on their tasting menu. So one gets the full wine treatment while the other can opt for Sips at about half the price.
Beverley wasn’t impressed with alcohol free wines saying “they’re not essentially wines”. But she said the technology is improving and that Torres have an 0.5% line. “There are lots of low alcohol beers and ciders, though”.
No matter the ABV, Bryan’s main aim is that the wine complements the food, doesn’t clash with it and doesn’t overpower it. Frank will have his own aims but “we do work well together”.
Brian said that, for him, flavours in organic wine are similar to those in non-organic. For him too, it was more about provenance.
Beverley: “In recent years concern for the environment has been spilling over into food and wine. People are asking more and more for organic, bio and natural. Customers are drinking better, making more informed choices and are more demanding. Wines, whose sales were once static, are now more popular and giving us more fun. People now ask for different grape varieties, want to explore”.
Brian agreed the people “are more experimental”. Frank has spotted the trend and people are buying accordingly.
Beverley is a big fan of Coravin. “We have over a hundred wines by the glass. Coravin is essential and not just for the more expensive wines. I know the wines are fresh from it and we use it on many wines. Wines are at their freshest and people get variety.”
How best to present the wine list
Greene’s sommelier Frank says they have tried various formats, grouping by region, by flavour profile, by price. And it would seem that price is key for many. “Even corporate customers have a budget”.
|An Italian at Cask (Greene's little sister)|
Frank though loves seeing a customer who knows exactly what he wants and ordering it straightaway. Sometimes that can be a lower priced wine and sometimes a top of the range champagne but, either way, the somm gives credit to the customer. Bryan said sample sips are not generally available in the restaurant (Greene’s) but are in Cask.
Beverley’s list is divided by style. “We have six or seven choices under each category. It encourages the customer to explore and not be daunted. It helps us that we can offer the customer a taste before purchase.”
Bryan says sparkling sales are customer driven. Prosecco is the most popular but Cava and Champagne are available. Frank concurred: “Frizzante is most popular because of price, especially among groups of women who’ll order a bottle before a meal. It is fun and nice to drink.” Beverly bemoaned that Cava suffers because of higher import duties and Bryan agreed that those same taxes “have a lot to do with what people drink”.
Could Crémant be the next big thing? “You do see it,” says Frank “but it’s still a hard sell. On the other hand, you don’t sell champagne, people buy it!” Beverley confirmed that champagne is selling well now after stalling for a good few years.
Of course, despite all the problems (including taxes of all kinds), people can still help themselves. L’Atitude have a long-running Friday Fizz where customers can buy a glass of the nominated bubbles at a very reasonable price and the Raven (who held a successful Spanish wine tasting recently) offer all wines at the same price, €22.00 per bottle, every Monday. night.
Some terrific spirits, wines and very interesting vermouths were tasted at the River Lee. Check them out here