'Tis the Season to Increase Wine Sales

Images: Estitario Milos

When it comes to leveraging the holidays, end-of-year friend and family gatherings, and company parties, wine pairs well with profits.

In fact, wine performs incredibly well this time of year. According to Nielsen CGA, almost 40 percent of consumers select wine over spirits, beer, cocktails and soft drinks during the Thanksgiving period when dining and drinking outside of their homes.

“As one of the key holidays of the year, Thanksgiving and the days that surround it represent a great opportunity for suppliers and retailers in the On Premise. This time of year is often bigger for suburban/rural neighborhoods as opposed to urban ones, as many people retreat to their family homes for the holiday,” says Matthew Crompton, client solutions director at Nielsen CGA. “And although the traditional Thanksgiving meal is often a home-based affair, the rest of the week represents a great opportunity for dining-led outlets to drive footfall, and our latest OPUS data reinforces that wine should not be forgotten during the occasion.”

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We asked industry leaders to weigh in on what metrics they were tracking to ensure proper cash flow, increased profit margins, and operations setup for future growth.

Ronald Buyukliev is the lead sommelier at Estiatorio Milos, a Greek and Mediterranean-style restaurant in Las Vegas that specializes in fresh, quality seafood. Estiatorio Milos also has a serious—but seriously approachable—wine program.

He may work at an upmarket restaurant but Buyukliev isn’t pretentious. He doesn’t believe, for instance, that amazing wines guests will fall in love with must be accompanied by eyewatering price tags.

Buyukliev recently shared his thoughts on wine with us, including what to pair with Thanksgiving staples, what wines go well with burgers and bar food, and how operators can manage costs.

Lead sommelier Ronald Buyukliev from Estitario Milos

What wine do you recommend pairing with turkey or ham?

Medium-bodied reds do indeed pair great with turkey and ham. One of my all-time favorites is 2016 Driopi Nemea Agiorgitiko, a smooth red with bright red fruit flavors and soft tannins. I’m actually planning on enjoying it with my family this thanksgiving as the bright red fruit compliments traditional Thanksgiving fare (turkey and cranberry sauce—yum!) wonderfully.

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With New Year’s Eve approaching, what do you recommend?

For NYE, Champagne is the absolute classic, and for good reason. But if you want to switch things up this year, traditional method sparkling wines from around the world could offer a fun (and cost effective) alternative. One of my favorites at the moment is the Tselepos Amalia Brit sparkling wine from the south of Greece, an elegant, dry sparkling wine that’s perfect to ring in the New Year with. 

Vegetarian and vegan menu items are a must these days. What wine pairs with vegetable-focused dishes?

Veggie-forward dishes can be a little tricky—the preparation and what particular veggies matters tremendously. With simple, raw vegetables I try to pair them with complementary flavors. With Greek salad, for example, I usually enjoy pairing a floral and aromatic wine that highlights the freshness and garden nature of the salad. The Gerovassiliou Viognier has been one of my favorite go-to pairings at the restaurant.

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Are there wines that work well with traditional bar bites and fried foods?

Fried foods are so easy to pair with wine—just look for bubbles! Champagne and other sparkling wines are a classic and delicious pairing with just about any fried food. Burgers can go well with a juicy red—think things like Zinfandel from Sonoma or Malbec from Argentina.

Costs associated with purchasing and storing wines can be challenging for some operators. What are your top tips for managing and reducing costs?

Great ways to cut costs are buying in bulk and/or working with your distributor to ensure the best prices available, and also to look towards lesser-known regions of the world for great value. Why pay $20-plus cost for a bottle of mediocre wine from a “classic” region when you could spend the same or even less on a wine that is higher quality from a more up-and-coming region (Greece, Chile, etc.)?

What top wine trends do you see taking hold in the industry?

Wine consumers have been seeking more natural wine and low-sulfite wine. With the worldwide shift towards greater health consciousness, this shift has also been echoed in the wine world. Consumers are asking for organic wine and natural wine, and wise beverage directors should have at least a few offerings in this category. While these wines can be expensive from certain countries, they’re par for the course in other countries and you needn’t pay a premium for them.

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The great majority of wines from Greece, for instance, are made with minimum sulfite treatment and are hand harvested, and many are actually biodynamic. I think this trend will continue into 2020 as well as an ever-greater shift into more diverse regions of the world, as Millennials and Gen Z wine drinkers are less consumed about point scores and tradition and are more eager to try something fun and new.

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