In a year that has seen a record number of restaurants – particularly chains – close their doors, it's clear that for many restaurant companies a major strategy revamp is in order if they want to thrive once more. After clearing administration over the summer, the Gaucho restaurant group has developed a new wine-led approach to personalise its venues in an effort to change the tide.
‘The new concept will be much more about individual Gauchos,’ Andrew Maidment, Gaucho's new wine buyer, told Imbibe. ‘The chain restaurant is not working in the UK – each site needs to have individuality. Spitalfields shouldn’t look like Mayfair. The wine offering is going to go in that direction.’
In addition to creating wine lists tailored to each venue, the chain will switch up its wine-sourcing methods to reinvigorate the business.
‘The core part of the wine lists will still be from UK importers,’ said Maidment, ‘but another third will be bought directly from Argentina, and the rest will be wine styles that have no Argentinian alternative, like top-growth Bordeaux.’
To source wines directly from Argentina, Gaucho will be collaborating with Wines of Argentina. The promotional body will be in charge of scouting potential producers and collecting relevant samples, which will then be sent off to the UK for a final selection in March. By importing directly from the South American country, Maidment and Gaucho CEO Martin Williams hope to give a voice to smaller, independent producers that are currently underrepresented in the UK.
‘It’s always the big wineries [who are represented] – those who can afford PR, travel and marketing. But there are so many super-interesting smaller wineries in Argentina,’ commented Maidment. ‘It’s my duty to champion those guys. If no one gives them a chance they’re never gonna get an importer.’
Maidment plans to prioritise wineries that pursue positive social and environmental causes through their projects, as well. ‘The focus on organic and biodynamic wine producers is very important to us, as well as when producers take care of social causes. If wineries can show that to us, then they're top of the list,’ he stated.
These directly imported wines will be available on Gaucho's wine lists and in its online retail shop – but Maidment doesn’t exclude the possibility of making them available to the on-trade at some point.