As the clock ticks down for the start of the 31 Days of Riesling campaign for 2022 in July, The Buyer looks back on last year’s competition that attracted over independent wine merchants, bars and restaurants to take part, who brought German Riesling to life in their outlets and venues. Here Helen Arnold talks to the overall on-trade winner, Tessa and Elliott Lidstone of the Box-E restaurant in Bristol.
You can get ready to take part in this year’s 31 Days of Riesling campaign that runs through July 2022 by clicking here.
Few wine merchants, bars or restaurants would turn down the opportunity of quadrupling their wine sales, but that’s exactly what Wines of Germany’s annual 31 Days of German Riesling, now in its 11th year, can help you achieve.
The month-long promotion, which kicks off in July, helped last year’s participants – over 150 independent merchants, bars and restaurant owners – boost their sales of the wine by up to four times compared to the previous month. Open to any independent wine retailer or hospitality venue, the campaign aims to promote German Riesling across the UK, with the best campaigns being awarded £1,000 towards new German wine listings, along with a £500 runner up prize in each category, and a further £500 for the best digital campaign.
Last year’s winner, Tessa Lidstone and her husband and business partner and chef, Elliott, who are co-founders and owners of Box-E restaurant in Bristol, have been reaping the benefits of taking part in the campaign. Their restaurant, which first opened its doors back in 2016, is housed in two former shipping containers on the waterside in Wapping Wharf in the city centre, and specialises in produce-led, contemporary, seasonal British cooking.
Typical dishes include starters such as farm smoked trout, golden beetroot, buttermilk and horseradish or asparagus, chopped duck egg and brown butter croutons followed by mains of hake, crushed Jersey Royals and dill butter, or breast of duck, wild rice, salsa verde and rainbow chard.
The Lidstones and their restaurant are known for being passionate German Riesling fans, and as a result were keen to get involved in the promotion to spread the love about their favourite grape.
As part of last year’s campaign, Box-E featured 11 German Rieslings including wines from Carl Loewen, Meulenhof, Leitz, Dönnhoff and Maximin Grünhaus, with four Rieslings available by the 125ml glass, ranging from dry to sweet, and costing around £7.
“This meant that guests could feasibly try all four wines if they wanted, without price being a deterrent,” says Tessa. “During the month we really encouraged guests to try out different Rieslings and talked to them a lot and at the end of month hosted a tasting dinner with paired Rieslings.”
The special tastings dinner saw around 40 guests invited to take part across two sittings with each guest given the opportunity to sample some exclusive German Rieslings which they would not previously have encountered. Each Riesling was carefully paired with dishes on the tasting menu.
“We had some really great wines that they wouldn’t have been able to get their hands on, plus some magnums,” confirms Tessa.
The dinner was such a success that Box-E will be holding a similar event during this year’s 31 Days campaign, and is confident it will be a sell-out once again.
“I think in the first couple of years we did the campaign, people hadn’t necessarily heard about it from us before, but last year, and the year before, we had built up enough of a following so that people were expecting it and looking forward to it, and that really helped.”
As a result of their efforts, Box-E saw its German Riesling sales triple during the campaign month.
Offering a relatively small, but carefully curated wine list, Box-E’s standard offering comprises a selection from small and biodynamic producers including around 14 whites, 14 reds, five sparkling, three pink and three dessert wines.
“We always have at least one German Riesling available, as we are known for our Rieslings,” says Tessa. “We are currently offering the Meulenhof Riesling at £44 a bottle, which we absolutely love, and will stick with it until we can’t get our hands on any more of it. It doesn’t make sense to change just for the sake of it as the wine is simply stunning and pairs beautifully with our spring and summer menu.”
The fact the Meulenhof estate dates back to 1337, and has been in the same family for generations makes the wine even more compelling, with an interesting back story to relate to guests, she adds.
Working with suppliers
The restaurant sources its wines largely from two tried and trusted suppliers – Raeburn Wines in Edinburgh, which came to their attention via a personal recommendation, and Bristol-based Spiegel and Peach.
Raeburn has been a big help in sourcing the right German wines for its list. “They have a very extensive range and long relationships with German wine producers,” says Tessa. “We knew that Raeburn offers some really interesting wines, with lots of low intervention and biodynamic varieties too. From the outset we wanted to offer our customers things that they wouldn’t see on other wine lists, and our suppliers are very good at helping us to discover some unique wines. Through Raeburn we have met a few of the producers, but it doesn’t make any sense for us to buy direct from them as the volumes we require are quite small, and the economies of scale simply don’t add up.”
Wines by the glass are an important element of the restaurant’s wine offering, she adds. “We want to have lots by the glass for customers to experiment and try new things,” she confirms. “We want to be approachable and encourage people to ask questions and try to make wine as accessible as possible in the process.”
She says there has been a definite shift in attitudes towards Riesling over the years. “I think the image of Riesling has changed massively,” she says. “When we first opened up and had Riesling on our wine flight with our tasting menu, people would often say they weren’t big fans and that it was too sweet. But we get far less of that nowadays, and people are better informed and aware that German Riesling is a great wine to match with food.”
Personally, Tessa says she loves the sheer diversity that German Riesling offers from a single grape. “I like its crispnesss, and the levels of acidity. It’s a really fresh, zingy, beautiful wine, but can be bone-dry or sweet enough to be a dessert wine.”
As for the forthcoming 31 Days campaign, the Lidstones are currently planning the finer details of their activities to go alongside their special German Riesling tasting dinner, but will be looking to offer an enhanced range of Rieslings on the menu, both by the bottle and by the glass. A keen social media user, Tessa says she is confident that the dinner will sell out the minute she posts details on Instagram. “We have a small but loyal following, and whenever we advertise a dinner on Insta, it gets pretty booked up almost immediately,” she says.
Her advice to other restaurants, or bars who want to boost their German Riesling offering is to seek out family owned producers with interesting stories to tell, as well as young, up and coming producers.
“Do your research and taste the wines – if you love them then you can share that passion with your guests in an authentic and honest way. It’s difficult to sell something you don’t feel passionately about yourself.”
- You can find out more about Box-E by going to its website here.
31 Days of Riesling Campaign 2022
The 2022 31 Days of Riesling Campaign runs throughout July and it is a chance for independent wine merchants, bars and restaurants to sign up and take advantage of cash support for tastings and other promotional opportunities.
The best retailer and restaurant will each win £1,000 towards new German wine listings, and there is also a £500 prize for the runner-up in each category, and £500 for the best digital campaign.
You can register now to get involved and if you do so by May 31 you will be sent a special POS pack. If have any questions please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. Register here to get involved.