It’s hardly news that the restaurant industry is ailing, but it’s wine in particular that’s struggling for attention, according to Wine Intelligence’s latest on-trade report.
While it remains the backbone of food venues’ alcohol offering, restaurateurs interviewed for the study reported that other drinks such as gin, cocktails and craft beer are more talked about and have grown in repertoire over the past year.
‘It’s hard to find a good news story in the UK on-trade at the moment, and wine is not immune from the cold winds sweeping through the sector,’ said Richard Halstead, COO of Wine Intelligence.
‘The message from this report seems to be that lazy or outdated wine offers are going to be punished, and rewards will accrue to those who are using the wine list as an opportunity to bring new knowledge and understanding to consumers.’
Vegan and organic wines are also getting more air time, no doubt aided by the trend for clean eating. Restaurant owner and vegan Alexis Gauthier recently told Imbibe that assumptions about vegan wine are changing.
‘Preconceptions make you imagine cloudy, homespun wine with a rustic artisan feel, blunt, harsh overtones and unsubtle blends, which is not true at all,' said Gauthier.
‘The only thing really standing in the way of most wines being vegan is the fining agents… so it’s only really an aesthetic, or textural thing. Nothing to do with taste.’
The report suggested that this shift in perceptions was likely down to increased trade awareness of natural wines, the growing number of dedicated trade events, such as Raw Wine, and increased availability.
In 2017, 984 restaurants fell into administration, a 20% increase on the previous year. So far this year, Prezzo has announced it’ll be shedding 100 venues, the Byron chain is closing 20, and Jamie’s Italian 12.
And it’s not just chain restaurants that are bearing the brunt of the ‘perfect storm’ of adverse trading conditions, with the City’s L’Anima and wine-centric 8 Hoxton Square closing their doors.
This downward trend in wine consumption is compounded by a shift in ordering size. Vinoteca’s Charles Pashby-Taylor told Imbibe he’d notice more people ordering wine by the glass, perceiving this as being better value for money.
‘I was working [in a restaurant] over in the city before Chrismas, and so much wine was going out by the glass and not bottles on tables,’ he said. ‘Trying to persuade people to order a bottle is difficult.’