Start thinking about summer wines now

While most wines can be enjoyed any time of year and ostensibly anywhere within sight of a corkscrew, the hot summer months present an opportunity to expand your beverage selection with great seasonal offerings, all in the pursuit of greater awareness and revenues.

While the meetings with vendors, tastings, procurement, shipping of new cases and printing of new menus can all take place inside of a month, the strategic vision needs an equal amount of time or longer to properly gestate.

With the proverbial line in the sand for patio season occurring in the United States during the Memorial Day long weekend, if you start thinking about the theme now then you will have given yourself a full month to research and ruminate on the best concept as well as another for senior team input as well as finance team signoff.

Given how much you likely have on your plate, this isn’t a whole lot of time. You must start putting your strategic vision in place now, with an emphasis on differentiating your beverage selection, knowing full well that every other hotspot in town will be trying out their own promotions.

That’s why you need a few weeks solely for some deliberate thought with the hope that you can conjure up the one big idea that will generate buzz and distinguish your wine list, beer list or cocktail collection. For inspiration, spend some time meandering through Instagram or Pinterest to see what other restaurants or hobbyists are doing. Then look to start small with a singular, punchy concept that you can execute and execute well.

As this is a wine-related column, we’ll focus on that particular liquor first, of which top of mind is rosé, now a summer staple with far more than plonk at your disposal. Renowned for their drinkability, such wines can range from headache sweet to savory dry, with colors from shimmering amber and blush watermelon to deep strawberry red. All are delightfully enjoyable when chilled while some also deliver an amusing bouquet and plenty of ripe fruit at warmer temperatures.

With so much at your disposal if you so choose to go this route, instead of just announcing your rosé inventory and listing off these specials on a menu insert, it’s now a matter of embellishing such a program. Do you organize your list by price, by taste profile, by place of origin or by color? If a group orders a full bottle, what accoutrements, like a nicely polished bucket brimming with ice, does the server present with it?

A small step away from rosé would be whites and sparkling wines. The trend for both when discussed in relation to the sweltering heat of June, July and August is towards lighter, less sweet concoctions that actually refresh the palate or offer a counterbalance to traditional outdoor cuisine. Perhaps your summer program could be a white and seafood special.

Both types of wines have grown leaps and bounds in nearly every production region in the world, so finding a great local or semi-local offering shouldn’t be a chore. What I would emphasize if you embark down this path is that you stray away from those brands that are well-stocked in the nearby bottle shop as they won’t offer your patrons anything extraordinary or memorable in the overall experience.

Segueing into beer, the classics for summer are the lightly hopped wheat varieties. With the craft beer scene now firmly entrenched in every hipster denizen, it won’t be hard to find one or two that could fulfill the local quota. Or, look for a few niche European imports. Remember your presentation, as one nice flourish for a wheat beer might be to serve each glass with a decoratively sliced orange wedge.

Also making a profound comeback are ciders, sour ales, shandies and radlers. Just imagine if you had a wild-ferment cider program that also included a few growlers for groups. Make it engaging and entertaining, and you’ll surely move a ton of inventory come summer.

Ultimately, though, whatever you decide to boost revenues for the summer depends on what works best with your restaurant’s theme as well as what your local producers and merchants can provide.