“Please keep convincing people to plant more Chardonnay… Pinot Gris is fine… Pinot Noir is awesome… but who doesn’t want more Chard in their life?” -Andre’ Proulx, Toronto, Canada wine columnist. Andrewinereview.ca
Chardonnay is grown globally across a vast swath of geographies and climates, with latitudes ranging from British Columbia to Marlborough, New Zealand. The globe-trotting green-skinned grape hearkens from the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, and for purists, Burgundian versions represent the pinnacle of this varietal’s majesty. Other wine regions would of course beg to differ, offering their takes on the varietal that are as compelling as they are unique.
Not too long ago, warm climate versions of Chardonnay were once the rage in the consumer market–think rich, voluptuous, well-oaked versions called “jacuzzi” wines, after the spot one might enjoy a glass while taking in a northern Californian sunset. And although sales for the Botticellian guise of Chardonnay are still quite strong, tastes in the last decade however seem to have shifted towards leaner, higher-acid, lower-oak models espousing grapes grown in cooler, coastal climates.
Apropriately, to match their warm-climate counterparts from the somewhat unusual locales of Lodi (LoCal) California and Baja, Mexico, Chardonnay conferences are cropping up in equal measure in cold climate growing regions everywhere – Canada, Oregon, New York -to finesse their marketing programs for the popular varietal. Indeed, Ontario, Canada’s 2016 annual Chardonnay conference “The Rebirth of COOL: International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration” (which includes a “Chardonnay Camp” for those with a penchant for summer outdoor fun and imbibing prodigious varieties of Chardonnay) featured wineries from France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, California, South Africa, New Zealand and Oregon, demonstrating just how wide-spread the movement has become.
So which is better: warm climate or cool-climate Chardonnay? Old World or New World? That, we leave to your taste-buds to decide. For us, the answer is simply “Yes”. If you’ve got a favorite, tell us all about it in a comment below!
What is unquestionable, however, is that when it comes to dominating wine-lists, Chardonnay is the king of white varietals. (Vive le Roi! or Long Live the King! depending on which way you lean)
At BinWise, data is king: we compile extensive data about the purchase and sales of wine across the top wine programs around the country. Here are a few interesting discoveries from our analysis of the classic white wine sold by the glass:
Top 5 Insights to Improve your Wine Program Sales
Chardonnay is king. Virtually every winelist features this varietal, and while Sales (by quantity) ticked up only slightly for 2016 versus 2015, it’s still the top white-wine dog by a fair margin. Yes, it’s the obvious and perhaps un-hip or un-sexy choice to put on a list, but it seems that its sales rate more than justifies its ubiquity. We analyzed sales across the last few years for wines sold by the glass and Chardonnay is the perennial power-player by both quantity and revenue generated.
Sauvignon Blanc is making a splash Sauvignon Blanc sales as a percentage of white wines sold by the glass have been steadily stepping upwards by a few points over the last several years. This seems to align with the current trends favoring higher acid wines across the board–will 2016 see this varietal overtake Chardonnay in the BTG sales war?
Want to make a buck? Sell Chardonnay A successful restaurant maximizes revenue per sold item (while still ensuring that customers feel that they are getting good value) and since a customer can only consume so much wine in a sitting, the best programs sell items priced at a revenue sweet-spot (more on that in upcoming posts, we promise!). Customers are statistically more willing to pay a premium for Chardonnay than they are for other mainstream varietals (8% more than Sauvignon Blanc on average). Your list can support multiple Chardonnays as long as you make sure to differentiate the various styles that you carry.
Pinot Grigio can be a losing proposition Wine lists with a Mediterranean bent are relatively common lately, so we see a lot of Pinot Grigio out there–and while it might be an easy sell, the data shows that you might be leaving money on the table. After Unspecified White Blends, Pinot Grigios command the smallest average price per glass (25% less than Chardonnay!), so each sale is a loss of potential revenue per item sold. Perhaps you should rethink, or at least reprice, that Pinot Grigio you’re pouring…you just left $4 on the table with that glass.
Experiment with other varietals While sales volumes might be lower, other varietals like Gruner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc can command higher prices and add to top-line revenue if added into a wine list wisely.
Cool Climate Chardonnay is King Yes, we know we’re repeating ourselves here, but they really can pair well with virtually everything! From fish, seafood and shellfish to pasta and poultry, elegant , fruit-driven, classic Chardonnay is simultaneously creamy and crisp, with concentrated citrus and tropical fruit. From fruit-driven, un-oaked styles to fully-oaked concentrated Burgundian styles, the mix of deliciousness, pairability and revenue driving make Chardonnay “Le Roi” as far as we’re concerned.