We chatted with Tsogo Sun’s Group Sommelier Miguel Chan to find out some of the top trends affecting wine, its service and listing in the Tsogo Sun group.

HM: What are some of the new trends in wine service?

The industry is moving away from the formality and stuffiness of wine service, without sacrificing delivery to patrons and attention to details. Wine service is more fun, with levels of guest interaction dependent on their needs. Wine talks are less intimidating wine talks, as all wine information today is available on a smartphone and restaurant patrons are looking for brands recognitions and associations with their dining experience, as well as fair pricing.

What I also see happening in wine service is to use one size wine glass rather than have a white and a red wine glass as has been traditional. Sparkling wines (Champagne, MCC’s, Prosecco and Cava) are moving away from flutes towards either a tulip shape glass or a white wine glass. It is amazing what global warming have done to wines, in that they are more expressive and more fruit driven and fuller, and as such the glassware for sparkling wine has changed in order to enhance those characteristics for greater drinking enjoyment. I believe the consumer should give it a try and not be scared or offended if they get served sparkling wine in a non-traditional glass.

HM: Have you noticed any trends in what wine guests are ordering?

Sauvignon Blanc as a bright, crisp and refreshing white wine remains the undisputed market leader and Merlot as a delicate, vibrant and silky red is a consumer favourite. However, sales of unwooded Chardonnay have been growing steadily year on year for the last 7 years. The biggest change across the country that I’ve seen is that South Africans have developed a love for sparkling wines, either a quality MCC from a well-known producer/brand, or Champagne from one of the leading houses, with Prosecco thrown in as well. Everybody is drinking sparkling wine, which is very good for the future as sales are dynamic and strong.

Demi Sec sparkling wines with slightly higher sugar are very popular, which is why Prosecco as an imported Italian sparkling wine has been widely accepted locally. Rosé brut also keeps growing.

Rosé as a still wine has grown tremendously and there is greater demand for the semi-sweet style, especially from young consumers migrating from other drinks to wine. The Provencal French style rosé which is paler and drier, and in a way more food friendly, has a good following too.

HM: How is this affecting the wines you buy and how you compile your wine lists?

Certainly compiling a good wine list is all about its commercial worth, it’s not about the sommelier’s favourites. The selections need to be crowd pleasers in terms of choices, which is easier said than done as there are many factors to look into such as demographics, location of the business and food concepts. Another factor to take into account are brands that are constantly engaging with their customers and are present in the social media sphere as the new generation of wine drinkers are definitely making their ordering / buying decisions based on what they see on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This new generation of wine drinkers are hardly following the recommendations of wine critics in newspapers. Also wine apps, such as the number one in the world Vivino which has over 24 millions users, play a critical role in how wines are chosen, either when dining out or when confronted with a wall of wines in a retail environment.

The four pillars of buying wines for our wine lists, irrespective of the above are firstly quality comparable to world’s benchmark and the wines need to reflect the region where the grapes are grown, and secondly brand recognition. Thirdly, the prices need to reflect the quality and brand perception, and not be inflated by marketing, and lastly the wines need to be 100% clean, fruit-driven and, above all, with bright freshness. Oak/wood is seen as a supportive character rather than a feature of the end products.

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