With wine merchant Berkmann’s ‘Help 4 Hospitality’ campaign finishing, Peter Ranscombe looks back at its best sellers.
WHEN the lockdowns were imposed around the UK, wine suppliers like Berkmann were faced with the closure of the restaurants, pubs and other hospitality venues to which they normally sold their bottles.
The company responded within two weeks by launching its “Help 4 Hospitality” campaign to sell wines direct to consumers in their homes – and to raise money for charities and hospitality businesses at the same time.
The scheme proved popular, with £75,000 raised to help individuals and businesses through the enforced closure.
The campaign came to an end last month, and this morning Berkmann gave an update on which bottles flew off the online shelves:
- Provence rosé proved popular, with M de Minuty becoming the best seller on the website and Whispering Angel flying into fourth spot;
- Portuguese wines took three spots in the top 12 through Prunus Dão red and white, and Azahar Vinho Verde;
- sales of orange wines rose by 140% year-on-year between April and August, from a low base;
- sales of wines from the Eastern Mediterranean – including Georgia, Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey – rose by 24%;
- rumours of prosecco’s death have continued to be exaggerated, with Italy’s popular fizz ranked as the third highest-selling wine on the site and the top sparkler;
- and the march of sauvignon blanc continued, with Mancura from Chile and Coopers Creek from New Zealand in the top 10.
Portuguese wines are the dark horse of the UK wine trade – they’re more popular than they may first appear in the main sets of statistics because they sell more bottles through independent wine merchants and restaurants than through the supermarkets, which tend to get better coverage from retail analysts.
Pink wines’ popularity could have been boosted by that lovely spell of sunny weather towards the start of the lockdowns – which feels like a long time ago now, amid autumn’s grey days.
What was equally as interesting as which wines had been sold between April and August was Berkmann’s insight into how the hospitality industry is bouncing back following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Around 84% of Berkmann’s trade comes from bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses, so it’s a useful litmus test.
While the company said it was too soon to judge the impact from this morning’s introduction of varying forms of the “rule of six” in the UK nations, it did report that 80% of its clients were trading by the end of August, having risen from about 70% at the start of the month.
It expects that figure to hit more than 90% by the end of September.
Around 90% of businesses in the south of England had already reopened by the end of August, with staycation locations in the Lake District and Yorkshire also faring well.
Challenges remained in city centres, it added, due to lower footfall.
Fraser McGuire, one of Berkmann’s directors, added: “Scotland opened bars, hotels and restaurants later than England and the trade pick up has been ever so slightly slower than rest of UK for our account base.”
During Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme last month, Berkmann’s clients said that customers were buying more expensive wines – presumably splashing out on posher bottles after saving cash on their food bill.
Interestingly, the wine merchant said that trend appears to have continued into September; perhaps the fabled “drinking less, but better” trend may finally be taking hold, if customers are going out less but treating themselves when they do venture out?
And, for those who are still looking to treat themselves to a bottle at home, keep your eyes peeled for these wines from Berkmann’s range…
Minuty Cuvée Prestige 2019 (£21.95, Saxtys Wines)
The upgraded version of the M de Minuty that finished at the top of Berkmann’s sales charts over the summer. It’s really quite expressive for a Provence rosé, with a touch of tangerine in amongst the raspberry and strawberry on the nose. Telltale teeth squeaking acidity on the palate, but enough lemon and strawberry to provide balance.
Ca’ del Bosco Brut Cuvée Prestige (£45, Valvona & Crolla)
Berkmann has a strong Italian range and its choice of Franciacorta, Ca’del Bosco, is a great way to explore Italy’s flagship sparkling wine. It’s a bit of a hidden secret – it’s made in the north of Italy using the traditional method, with the second bubble-creating fermentation taking place inside the bottle, as opposed to inside a tank, like prosecco. The result is more savoury and serious – and a real treat.
Unico Zelo Truffle Hound Barbera Nebbiolo (£15.99, All About Wine)
My pick of the bunch from the “Help 4 Hospitality” samples I tried back in April. These two Italian varieties have cleared thrived in their new home in Australia’s Clare Valley, better known for its riesling.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.