US wine drinkers in a recent survey by the Wine Institute indicated that they prefer fruity, semi-sweet red wines. The most popular varietals were Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. An equal number preferred white wines, with the most popular being Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Riesling and Pinot Grigio. Sweet wines are preferred much more than dry wines.
About one fourth of restaurant customer only buy wine by the glass. While offerings by the glass at lower and higher prices will provide a robust wine program, you’ll want to have red and white wines at each of these price points:
$7 to $10 per glass
$11 to $15 per glass
For your by the bottle program, you should have both red and white wines at each of these price points:
$26 to $35
$36 to $45
$46 and higher
Carrying popular brands easily purchased in local wine stores can help customers identify products they already know they like, however, it has two distinct disadvantages. Knowing the price at the local wine store, customers may be feel cheated at the mark up. This can discourage sales. Additionally, wine enthusiasts generally like to experiment. Offering lesser known options from smaller vineyards provides the perfect opportunity to try something new. This will appeal to many of your customers.
If you have the ability to do so, a try before you buy approach may also invigorate sales. Offering a tasting of a suggested wine to pair with a meal will often lead to a sale. To encourage bottle sales, remind customers that they can take unfinished portions home to enjoy if the bottle is not finished.