Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing Insights: Red and white are the new black

Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Red and white are the new black

Wine aficionados (the insufferable
snobs) would scoff at the concept that wine follows trends. The sales
figures would beg to differ.

Wine aficionados (the insufferable snobs) would scoff at the concept that wine follows trends. The sales figures would beg to differ.

Especially since Yellow Tail Shiraz took North America by storm, consumers have been eager to embrace the trendy wines.

The restaurant industry should take notice because not only is wine consumption growing; it’s also growing amongst the millennial cohort (young adults) known to be solid food service customers and also known for embracing trends.


Restaurants should make sure their wine list is an active tool they leverage to increase sales. A strong wine list accompanied by some effective selling strategies can make a huge contribution towards a healthy balance sheet.

The Wine Market Council in the U.S. conducted research among sommeliers and wine buyers at restaurants including the 600 locations of the Olive Garden to high-end restaurants. Wine sampling proved to be very effective in generating sales of wine. The Olive Garden discovered that 40 per cent of customers who didn’t intend to order wine will order wine if given samples.

Offering wines in flexible portions from quartinos ( 250 ml) and mezzolitros (500 ml) to wines sold by the inch from bottles left open on tables; house wines; 1.5 oz. pours of luxury wines; or wine flights where a small portion of a different wine is served at each course and more generous 8 oz. pours at steak houses were all highlighted as being effective foodservice wine strategies.

Wine bars are popular, especially among women, who like the atmosphere. Organic wines and “green” marketing also appeal to consumers.

Wine itself is trendy and Canadians are embracing the grape in record numbers. Wine outpaced spirits for the first time in 2005 becoming the second most popular alcoholic beverage.

Increases in wine sales were especially strong in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Manitoba, according to Stats Can. Quebec consumers bought the most wine by far, accounting for 35 per cent of all sales in Canada.

Red wine is more popular than white, accounting for 60 per cent of the total wine volume sold. So exactly who are the cool kids when it comes to grape varieties these days? Well, it depends on who you ask but the numbers suggest the following wines make the “A list.”

Shiraz: This bold red is still very popular because it is fruit forward, peppery and associated with Australia. While Shiraz isn’t growing as briskly as it once was, the current growth is on a pretty generous base to begin with so the numbers are huge. Shiraz is great with barbequed fare, ribs, wings and pepperoni pizza.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Another bold red grown all over the world so you’ll have lots regions to choose from for your list. The wine-making style may result in a fairly high alcohol level so don’t recommend this with spicy hot foods – a nice peppery dish would be best. The tannins will be great with a creamy rose sauce or rare meat since they’ll cut through the protein and fat that coat the tongue.

Malbec: This is an emerging red varietal getting lots of buzz. Some are dubbing it the new “it wine.”  Malbec appeals to white wine fans who want an alternative to the dryness or mouth-chomping tannins in Cabernet. It’s food friendly and would be great with red sauces and chicken with barbeque toppings.

Pinot Grigio: It’s the same grape as Pinot Gris – only the wine-making style is different. Pinot Grigio is the more popular style perfected in Italy although many regions make a lovely wine. It’s light, crisp and easy drinking. It’s great with salads, seafood, chicken and white pizzas.

Riesling: Although Rieslings have been around for years, this wine is very food friendly. Also crisp but often a bit more floral than Pinot Grigio, Riesling is great with Asian food and Sushi. The Niagara region is especially good at producing top notch Rieslings for those customers who want to support the Canadian wine industry.

Unoaked Chardonnay: For years, fine wines have been heavily oaked. The trend is definitely moving towards less oak in both reds and whites as it allows the taste of the fruit to shine through more easily. Chardonnays shine with cream sauces and would be perfect with macaroni and cheese, fettuccini Alfredo.

Rose: Once associated with sickly sweet champagne, rose wine is posting double-digit sales growth. The new rose wines are dry and light and the perfect transition from heavy winter reds to light summer whites. This is the perfect wine to go with that veggie pizza on your menu.

As more people become intrigued and educated about food and wine pairings, you’ll notice that wine trends will begin to more closely follow food trends. They’ll change more frequently than they used to but this is good because it keeps the category exciting.

Your wine list isn’t just an “add on” as a service to your patrons – it’s as important as the cheese on your pizzas. Tap into some wine trends, you’ll be glad you did.

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