Wine Expression is our way of segmenting wines. We designed it more than 15 years ago to provide a framework with which to build a wine list. Since then, we have been delighted to see how our customers have embraced it and how further research into consumer behaviour has confirmed its usefulness. Examples of this later research include Gérard Basset's 2008 work for his MBA (he was already a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier at the time) which noted that consumers believed geographically arranged lists 'indicated that the restaurant knew the least about wine'.

Wine Expression was developed in response to research we carried out with consumers, our customers and three masters of wine, to produce a new way of looking at taste classification systems. Over the years we've developed, finessed and added to the system. These expressions form a core part of our 'Menu Engineering' process, a structured approach to redesigning wine lists to maximise sales that combines psychology and graphic design. Get your wine list right and watch your profits soar.

Can Wine Expression help staff?

Using Wine Expression, or a similar way of arranging your wine list has key commercial advantages. This arrangement increases wine revenues as customers focus first on how the wine tastes before price. It reduces the risk customers perceive in selecting a wine and allows them to choose with confidence, making them more likely to spend more money on a better wine as more of the list is now accessible to the consumer, not just the entry-level wines. If customers enjoy a good wine that suits their palate, they are more likely to return. Wine becomes a 'quality driver' for the business: increasing profit opportunities for the outlet and a better experience for the customer.

The 2011 Wine Intelligence On-Trade Report stated that 44% of customers prefer a wine list arranged 'by style' descriptors, 29% 'by variety' and only 19% preferred a list arranged 'by country'. However, still, a relatively large amount of outlets decide to organise their list in this way; are they missing a trick? We think so. Wine Expression delivers another front-of-house advantage; be it in the hands of service staff or guests, it acts as a training document to help with providing recommendations and focused information. Combined with a food and wine matching cheat sheet, tailored to your venue, Wine Expression gives waiting staff the power to make informed recommendations on which wine to choose with which dish. A great food match is a powerful tool, not only enhancing both the food and the wine, but satisfying customers and winning return visits.

What we did

An epicurean's dream, the chefs have come from some of the very best restaurants around the world to bring the delights of the east to Harrogate. Everything from the hand-painted wash bowls to the hand-carved imported furniture has been meticulously selected to make The Royal Baths a stunning dining venue. The Royal Baths have a reputation for having a great wine list, and we believe that, as well as the delightful selection of wines, this is down to the way it is clearly laid out by wine style. The owner, Hak Ng, was very open to having the wine list arranged by style when it was suggested to him by our Wine Development Specialist Rachel, and could immediately see the benefits. The main advantage being ease of navigation for the diners, which makes more of the list accessible and gives them the confidence to buy better wines, ultimately delivering more profit to the business.

Using Wine Expression to build a list

Rachel took special care when developing the range for The Royal Baths. Arranging a wine list by style makes it easy to judge that the menu is balanced with appropriate flavour profiles. Of course, a wine range is something that should be very specific to a venue, but Wine Expression can provide a set of core recommendations to start from. For example, we recommend an absolute minimum of ten wines on a list, four reds, three whites, two rosés and a sparkler, and beneath this have a recommended split by expression. By making our recommendations by style, there is the flexibility to stock not just the classic varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and the like, but to add interest to your range with exciting wines such as Alberiño, Malbec or Viognier. With many of the Sauvignon Blanc wines and Alberiño wines in our range sharing an expression, customers that like Sauvignon Blanc can be confident to give Alberiño a try, experiment, and spend more.

The results

Increased revenue from wine

Encouraged trading up

Increased staff confidence

Hak believes that arranging the list by style has definitely contributed to his increased revenue from wine. He says, "It removes the risk that customers feel when selecting wines they know little or nothing about; they feel comfortable ordering a wine within their preferred style category. They may even choose a more expensive wine within that section because they like the other wines within that category. Encouraging our customer to trade up helps my staff to recommend more premium wines."

His customers often ask for a wine to match the food they are having and dividing the list by style helps the staff to recommend an appropriate wine with confidence. This makes the whole list more understandable, and also encourages his guests to return and discover other wines on the list.

Customers always look for a risk-free purchase, but they will experiment if they are confident with the information they have available. If your wine list is confusing to read, with no hint as to the styles of the wine, people will go for the cheaper, perceived-safer options. As we've said, get your wine list right and watch your profits soar.