As the UK Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme ends, wine importer Hallgarten is giving restaurants and bars a helping hand – and Peter Ranscombe picks some exciting bottles from its warehouse.
MANY restaurant owners have hailed the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme as a massive success, bringing customers out for early week lunches and dinners.
Last month’s half-price food discounts have provided a lifeline to many hospitality businesses, with taxpayers picking up a bill that’s expected to be around £500 million.
But, now that the scheme has ended, what next for restaurants, bars and hotels?
Step forward wine importer Hallgarten.
From today, the company is giving more than 100,000 free glasses of wine to its on-trade customers – like bars, restaurants and pubs – to help them run promotions during September.
“The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has provided a great boost to the sector in August, so our plans focused in on helping customers to drive footfall in the second half of September,” explained Andrew Bewes, managing director at Hallgarten.
“There have been significant initiatives during the past few weeks to help the industry get back on its feet, but these overlooked wine, which plays an important role in the whole meal experience and often makes up a large proportion of restaurant bills.
“Whilst not a panacea to the challenges facing the industry, we hope that this initiative will make a difference and, in some small way, help to revitalise wine sales in restaurants, hotels and pubs.”
The idea has already gone down well with many people in the on-trade in Scotland.
Graham Suttle, co-founder of Kained Holdings, which runs sites including Porter & Rye and The Finnieston, said: “Hallgarten Wines are a fantastic partner to ourselves in the hospitality sector and have been hugely supportive throughout the last few difficult months.
“The company’s 100,000 glasses initiative is a fantastic way to help restaurants bolster their wines sales and entice customers through the door as we approach the festive period.”
Andrew Overstone, operations director at Dakota Hotel Group, added: “Confidence is building in the hospitality sector and we are delighted to see guests returning to us.
“The 100,000 glasses initiative from Hallgarten Wines will go a long way to help develop that confidence and give something back to our guests as a thank you for staying loyal.”
Whites from beside the sea
It’s great to see suppliers stepping in with these innovative ideas, with whisky distillery GlenAllachie also providing free bottles to some of its customers.
And, what’s even better, Hallgarten has a really exciting range of wines – it’s tastings in Scotland and down in London are always full of bottles about which I want to rave.
A great example is the 2019 San Marzano Timo Vermentino (£30 a bottle at Dakota in Edinburgh) from Puglia in the heal of Italy.
I’d normally opt for vermentino from Sardinia or Sicily, but this bottle proves why it’s worth exploring the mainland too, with classic pronounced lemon sherbet aromas and tonnes of green apples on the palate to balance its crisp acidity.
It’s great with seafood but will also be a refreshing treat on its own if we get a warm autumn.
Crossing the Adriatic to Croatia and we find the excellent 2018 Jako Vino Stina Cuvee White (125ml: £7, 175ml: £8.75, Bottle: £35 at The Finnieston in Glasgow) made from a blend of pošip, vugava and chardonnay.
Its complex nose is full of lemon rind, apricot, butter and even nutty notes, before exploding into fruiter lemon and apricot flavours on the palate.
It’s deliciously savoury and would pair nicely with a range of foods, from salty roast chicken through to pan-fried fish.
Reds from the hills
While Hallgarten is well-known in the trade for the minerality of its whites, it doesn’t skimp when it comes to reds either.
The 2017 Finca Bacara Time Waits For No One Black Skull (125ml: £7.75, 175ml: £9.75, Bottle: £39 at Porter & Rye in Glasgow) is a case in point – inky dark in colour, it oozes sweet blackcurrant jam and cassis notes on the nose, almost straying into blueberry territory.
On the palate, it’s got the ripe tannins you want to serve alongside Porter & Rye’s steaks, with a lush and silky texture.
The rest of Finca Bacara’s range from Spain is well worth exploring too.
Among Hallgarten’s new world offerings, the 2017 Undurraga Terroir Hunter Cabernet Sauvignon (175ml: £10, carafe: £20, Bottle: £40 at Dakota in Edinburgh) – or “TH” to its friends – is another great steak companion.
Hailing from the Maule Valley in Chile, it’s got all those textbook cabernet aromas, stretching from damp earth and wet leaves through to green pepper and blackcurrant.
It’s a really nicely balance wine, with fresh acidity, fine tannins and oodles of milk chocolate, vanilla and raspberry jam flavours.
With wines like these on their lists, Scotland’s restaurants, bars and hotels have an important tool in their kit as they enter an autumn like no other.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.