Fall, as much as any other season, receives clear demarcations on many beverage menus. Beer leans toward darker Oktoberfest, pumpkin, spices, and heavier, stronger stuff. On cocktail menus, long drinks start making way for more strong and stirred, sparkling drinks get less play, and American whiskey starts muscling gin and lighter spirits out.
So what about wine? For most bars and restaurants, wine lists remain a static menu area, except for perhaps the recent surge in interest in international rosés. Sales may change - sommeliers frequently report that wine sales decrease slightly as the weather cools while more robust reds take over - but not many operations alter their by-the-glass lists or bring on whites that offer less high-acid refreshment and instead bring depth and complexity to the table. Ditto reds: If red wine consumption is set to spike, then what better time to take on some varietals and regions not commonly seen on your menu?
The thing is, many reports about wine consumption in bars and restaurants indicate that it’s not only the wide-ranging Millennial who are bored by lists that don’t change and have a certain sameness to them. Slightly older consumers are getting more and more interested in the discovery of wine and experiencing the new. Chefs are under increasing pressure to change their menus seasonally; if those in charge of selling wine do anything less, customers will eventually notice.
Restaurants based on ethnic or regional cuisines, of course, have long been the place where Xinomavro, Primitivo, Carménère, and other less well-known varietals get a chance. Spanish wines especially have grown enormously in the US, but there are still any number of regions that have yet to make an impact here. Classic yet neglected French and Italian regions, while rarely priced as low as competitors, often provide very interesting options. The return of the long-ridiculed Lambrusco to many Italian-focused menus means younger customers who weren’t around when it was considered a cheap, sweet and unsophisticated wine may find it just the thing with which to start their evening.
The list is endless, really, but it doesn’t take much work to give your customers some new options to greet the chillier evenings. Fall is a time of transition, and marking that transition with new wines, well-promoted and featured, is one easy way to make your operation seem a little new as well.