Cheers-Nov-Dec 2016

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 12 of 63 13 November/December 2016 • Whether it's prosecco or cava, Champagne or California, or any number of sparkling wines from other regions, casual drinkers at bars and restaurants have been opting for a glass—or bottle—of bubbly at all occasions and times of the year. That's a far cry from even 10 years ago, when celebrations and holidays accounted for nearly all of sparkling sales. It's still an important component of year-end celebration, but many operators have found creative ways to sell sparkling wine year round. Champagne has long been the standard bearer among sparkling wines, and also the problem: Luxury imagery and high prices kept average American wine consumers at a distance. But lower-priced options, namely prosecco, washed away barriers to the acceptance of sparkling wines of all sorts in recent years. Prosecco's success has allowed operators to develop sales of cava, lambrusco, cremant and other international sparklers, as well as those from the U.S. BUBBLING UP The Champagne/sparkling wine segment as a whole grew 8.6% in 2015. Consumption of domestic sparkling wines consumption increased 7.2%, and international was up 10.7%. Prosecco continues to be a surging segment; Italian sparkling wines outpaced the category as a whole. Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director for Barteca Restaurant Group, has seen a decided increase in her operation, which includes the 11-unit Barcelona Wine Bar. "Sparkling wine has turned into a general consumers' 'going out' wine, and has a real footprint today," she says. Much of the on-premise growth is down to operations that put the effervescent wines center stage. Jay Schuster, operations manager/wine director at RM Champagne Salon in Chicago, lists at least 12 sparklers by the glass at any time, from cavas and proseccos to estate- grown Champagnes. "In general, as our customers are becoming more educated, they are open to more suggestions," Schuster says. "We break our menu down into three groups: global sparkling brut, rosés and Champagnes." RM Champagne Salon aims to be unintimidating "so that everyday people can come in and enjoy some sparkling wine, whether it's for our oyster special on Thursday, or before or after or during dinner," Schuster notes. "With Champagne in our name, we work hard to let people know we are approachable, and pricing is one of the ways we do that." Prices for sparkling wines range from $12 to $27 per glass; six of Schuster's sparkling glasses sell for $13 or less. "If you break down the product mix, prosecco and cava do a huge number for us, but the quality is there as well," Schuster says. Prosecco is only available by the glass, he adds, so "we take nearly all that is imported in the magnum size." ROSÉ OUTLOOK RM customers have lately been seeking rosé sparklers, especially in the summer when the salon's space doubles to include a cobblestone patio. One example is the Francois Montand Brut Rosé Cremant de Jura, sold for $12 per glass. RM sells about eight cases a week of the sparkler in the summer. Rosé sparkling wine, along with prosecco, is seen as a driving force in the sparkling category. "One of the biggest trends I've seen in the past 15 months or so is sparkling rosé, which three years ago I couldn't sell at all," says Thomas. She has always listed a few, but it was hard to get people to try sparkling rosé "because the consumers' instinct was Frank's Oyster House & Champagne Parlor in Seattle offers a range of sparkling wines by the glass, including Champagne, Blanquette de Limoux, Cremant de Bourgogne and prosecco. A 30% discount on Champagne every Tuesday has helped boost sales at Frank's Oyster House & Champagne Parlor.

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