Who better to give an insight in to the latest trends within German wine, particularly in terms of what diners are drinking, than Gus Pollard of 10 Cases in Covent Garden that only ever buys 10 cases of any particular wine and when it’s gone, it’s gone. German or not. Pollard was also one of the judges for the upcoming Get it On tasting that will highlight the best 50 German wines looking to find a place on restaurants and bars wine lists.
However much the trade might love German wines they are not always the easiest sell to customers. Gus Pollard of 10 Cases in Covent Garden was part of the judging team that came up with the final selection of 50 German wines looking for a home in the UK in next month’s Get it On tasting from Wines of Germany.
There are some restaurants and wine bars that have a wine buying policy that you feel only Agatha Christie or Poirot at his best could crack. 10 Cases, thankfully, is not one of them. It follows much more of “what its says on the tin” approach. It buys 10 cases of wine for every wine on its list. When those 10 cases have been sold it goes out and buys some more.
Which must be particularly good news for all the wine producers and suppliers trying to get their wines in to one of London’s most respected and popular wine bars and bistros. The bad news is that once you have had your spin of the wheel, 15 minutes of fame if you like on the 10 Cases list then that’s it, you will have to find another wine to convince Gus Pollard and his team to list.
But for its customers it makes for an ever changing, dynamic wine list that is prepared to be bold, risky and adventurous for even if a wine flops 10 Cases only has a limited amount to sell.
It’s not surprising to find 10 Cases works with up to 30 different wine suppliers as it is constantly looking for the next wine, the next region, country or varietal to put on its list.
Which makes it the perfect home for German wines. So often German producers and importers find it hard to get restaurants and bars to take the risk with a new German wine, particularly one that needs an abacus to count up the number of letters in the varietal alone. But for 10 Cases it is the ideal country to go to be constantly offering some new and different and whilst on the face of it the wines might appear challenging on the list they are amongst some of the easy drinking and adaptable wines for customers to buy as they can be paired with so many dishes.
Here Gus Pollard explains how 10 Cases goes about its business and buys its German wines in particular.
How are German wine sales in your business?
I would say they are particularly strong, we generally always have a German white by-the-glass on the Bistrot list and we have had great success with Spätburgunder as an alternative to Pinot Noir/red Burgundy, which can still represent value and drink-ability with classic varietal characteristic shining through.
In the Cave a Vin we work with an exciting list of varying styles and varietals by the bottle, based at all price points so it is very accessible for all. We also regularly pour German wine by-the-glass here too.
What styles are working/selling best. Why you think that is?
Wholesale and retail.
Dry whites are certainly the most appealing to our clientele, especially dry Riesling. However, I do feel people are becoming more curious and adventurous in their varietal choices, and when you can easily draw comparisons between a dry Weissburgunder or Grauburgunder, and a more familiar classic dry Riesling. People are open to exploring the alternatives.
Unfortunately I still see a negative stigma attached to wine with residual sweetness, but that’s part of our responsibility as wine lovers to open (or close in some cases) the doors of perception. There is so much pleasure in introducing a good quality Kabinett Riesling to a guest who has only been exposed to sickly sweet supermarket wine, and witnessing the joy as the acidity and sweetness dance on the tongue in perfect harmony.
What price points work best for you.
In terms of drink-in the £30-40 bracket is the sweet spot for dry wines (bad wine pun). Fortunately there is so much on offer that falls into this category, there is plenty to explore!
What potential do you think there is for German wine?
I think German wine already offers so much to wine lovers, and as a region in general it is without a doubt already responsible for (and has been for a long time) producing some of the finest quality wines in the world.
German wine overall is still recovering from the times past of heavily altered, mass produced, sickly sweet wines, so as wine lovers and professionals it is our responsibility to shatter this aged misconception and as we continue to do so more and more opportunities will arise for German wine. Ultimately, I think there is definite potential for further growth in popularity and appreciation, particularly with drinkers outside of the wine trade. I think at the entry-level German wine offers so much value and drinkability, the wines are pure and clear expressions of themselves and they can accommodate so many situations. At the higher end the wines can be simply world class
Any regions/ styles to look out for?
I think stylistically lesser known white varietals have room for growth, especially in regions like the Rheinhessen. In the past they have often been neglected or abused, operating in a commercial fashion, maximizing yields and farming without any respect for the land. However now passionate growers are making beautiful delicate expressions of lesser-known varietals like Silvaner or Schereube, farming their land with respect for the vine and producing very pleasurable and pure wines at accessible price points.
How do you source your German wines?
We are very fortunate to work with 20-30 different importers/suppliers so we have many avenues available for sourcing great German wine from the best growers. We also have the regularly changing 10 Cases Bistrot list which enables us to work with many great German wine growers at the pouring level which we have done and will continue to do so with great pleasure. This concept also forces us to continue to find new growers to work with as we will never list the same wine twice.
We do have a particularly close relationship with Howard Ripley Wines. It has an outstanding portfolio with many of the finest growers – classic as well as up and coming. We find great joy in the wines of all quality and sweetness levels from these top growers. Howard Ripley as a company has been at the forefront in introducing a new wave of quality growers focusing on Spätburgunder and alternative white varietals which has been a great success for us at The 10 Cases also.
What German styles work by the glass?
It is common for us to pour German white ‘by the glass’, generally speaking dry styles are the most effective, and with a leaning on Riesling in particular. Good examples of Weissburgunder and Sauvignon Blanc have been very successful also, in fact anything with freshness, purity, linearity and tension is not only what we love but is generally speaking extremely popular with our guests.
From a red perspective, Spätburgunder has been successful as it offers a fantastic alternative to Pinot Noir from a more renowned or ‘classic’ region and when raised well, it has a brightness and prettiness that can sometimes be lost in a more conventional, overworked expression of the varietal.
We are definitely seeing a general shift in taste towards cooler, fresher, highly drinkable reds that continue to draw the drinker back to the glass again and again… Spätburgunder from a good grower is a great companion in this instance!
How did you get involved in Wines of Germany’s Get it On tasting?
We’ve worked with Wines of Germany on their ’31 Days of German Riesling’ campaign and we have developed a working relationship with some of the great people representing German wine in London. Most importantly we just love Riesling and great German wine, and we want to do all we can to be involved with spreading the good word and sharing the love.
What styles stood out for you in the tasting?
Crisp dry whites in general. Sometimes I feel like younger or less experienced growers have trouble balancing and integrating residual sweetness but in the dryer expressions especially at the entry-level there is a lot of joy to be had, I think German wine in general still offers such great value and this was certainly evident.
How is business generally for you this year
We are very lucky and happy to be very busy most of the time, people are always thirsty for good wine in Covent Garden.