Portugal passion

Film nights, gourmet burger evenings and even a Douro vs Alentejo blind tasting competition have brought Portugal to life in independent wine merchants.

Off Licence News teamed up with Wines of Portugal to offer five top independents £1,000 worth of Portuguese wine to run a two-week promotion of Portugal, including a feature on two wine-producing regions.

An all-out foray into Portuguese culture made for a successful promotion at Carruthers & Kent in Gosforth, Newcastle.

The highlight was a supper club at which Portuguese wines were matched with taster plates of indigenous food – including a Moscatel with a traditional Portuguese almond and egg pudding.

Other events included a Portuguese film night with a selection of wines, a quiz night and a book club, all of which featured on Twitter and Facebook.

Owner Claire Carruthers tells OLN: “We sold probably twice as much Portuguese wine as we normally would.

“Downstairs at the shop we have a little enoteca, and we had flights of Portuguese wines from really unusual grapes. They went down really well – everybody loved those.”

The merchant worked with local specialist importer Marta Vine on the events, and also offered 10% off Portuguese wines.

Cambridge Wine Merchants extended its promotion into November, as it found many Portuguese winemakers were too busy with the harvest in October to visit its shops.

It held free tastings at weekends, ran a food and wine-matching class with Cambridge Culinary School, and worked with local media to promote Portuguese wines with local celebrity chef Alex Rushmer.

Esporao winemaker David Baverstock and wine writer Charles Metcalfe visited the store to hold masterclasses.

And every Thursday a gourmet burger night in the chain’s Cherry Hinton Road wine bar was paired with Portuguese wines by the glass and by the bottle.

The Portuguese wine range was boosted by 18% for the promotion, and over the three-week period the company sold 978 bottles of wine, up 191% on the three weeks before.

Managing director Hal Wilson says: “We have enjoyed a huge and sustained increase in sales of Portugal.

“It really proved the effectiveness of such promotions and we really appreciate the interest in and importance attached to the independent sector by Wines from Portugal.”

The Portuguese Conspiracy is a specialist Portuguese wine shop, delicatessen and cafe in London’s Dalston, which ran a number of 5%-15% discounts as well as holding a beginners’ guide to port and cheese pairing, film sessions and other educational events supported by producers or tasting experts.

Co-founder José Cardoso says: “The promotion allowed us to increase our portfolio significantly and push forward those same wines at a very competitive

price. Most importantly, it allowed us to put up a series of events and tastings.”

The promotion focused on the Douro and Beira Interior regions, but Cardoso believes it is too soon to really push Portuguese regions in the UK off-trade.

“Although there are regions that provide good entry points because of their historical background, such as the Douro, we believe it’s still premature to push these out as a strategy to promote Portuguese wine in general,” he says.

“It’s important to establish first the relationship with the concept of Portugal being a high-quality and diversity-rich winemaking country, showcasing examples of how each region contributes to the country’s overall diversity.

“Only when this concept is firmly consolidated should you move on to a more regional specific approach.”

The Good Wine Shop in Chiswick boosted its Portuguese wine sales a massive 910%, thanks to a 25%-off promotion on six bottles, a themed tasting weekend with eight still and fortified wines, a themed window and in-store displays and a tutored tasting by wine writer Sarah Ahmed.

Manager Andy Walton says: “The support we had enabled us to promote the region with a series of tastings and offers on the wines.

“I believe we did change perceptions on the regionality of Portugal, mostly through the education our staff were able to impart to customers, helped massively with having the wines open to taste.

“Sarah Ahmed did a wonderful tasting for us which also helped open up the region more.

“We have had lots of customers coming back to buy more Portuguese wines, which is always a great sign.

“We are confident this is an area that will continue to grow significantly in the next few years as people begin to realise the amazing diversity of Portuguese wines, as well as the incredible value for money they offer.”

Banbury-based SH Jones was promoting the wines of the Douro and Alentejo, and held a north vs south tasting to pit the two regions’ reds, whites and rosés against each other.

It also ran an in-store blind tasting competition, challenging consumers to tell the difference between the two regions.

But store managers felt that, although their customers had a lot of fun and left thinking Portugal was somewhere they should explore in more detail, they probably didn’t have any preconceived perceptions of what to expect from the regions.

SH Jones general manager Greg Shaw says: “The promotion will have increased Portuguese sales somewhat, albeit from a low base. However, there was a general reluctance by customers to spend more than £10 per bottle, even if the wines had been tasted.”

He says that, while consumers could taste the difference between wines from the Douro and Alentejo, they had little or no knowledge of the two regions, so he does not expect them to become important buying cues for shoppers in the near future.

“There is still work to do before customers specify a preference between Douro and Alentejo rather than Portuguese red,” he says.

SH Jones also promoted wine- matched recipe cards of traditional Portuguese foods, and a team-up with a local Portuguese coffee shop and delicatessen to show food and wine pairings in-store.

It offered a good-value taster case of Portuguese wines, ran a Portuguese offer on its Slurp e-commerce site and worked with suppliers to offer staff incentives based on boosting Portuguese wine sales.

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