Lenart Cernelic - Wine Store Manager at M Restaurant
Lenart talks about sourcing wine for the restaurant, traits of a good supplier, wine trends, grape varieties and much more.
Lenart Cernelic is an experienced wine store manager at M Restaurant. He has been serving into the hospitality industry for over ten years. He is skilled in catering, marketing management, crisis management and event planning. In an exclusive interview with the team of London Wine Competition, he shared about his role at work and how he manages his duties.
Explain your wine range and what you are looking to offer?
As part of M Restaurants, we follow the same credo of six major countries that we focus our offering around. Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa and the USA are all countries that produce an exceptional quality of meat and wine, which ties into our context perfectly.
How do you decide which wines you list?
I primarily look for, in my mind the most important aspect of the wines, deliciousness. A wine has to taste great first before anything else comes into the equation. After that, we are looking for wines that are harder to find. With wine merchants and supermarkets stepping up their game, we have to stay ahead of the pack and our combination of retail/restaurant business allows us to list some wines that are not available to any other retail outlets as the smaller quantities mean they are solely focused on the on-trade. Lastly, but definitely not least, value. I always taste wines without the price tags first. I only list wines that I feel are cheaper than what I estimate.
How have you evolved the range since you started out?
I have to admit my arrival has not been kind to entry-level wines. It does make no sense for us to list them since consumers will get much better value at the supermarkets. We cannot compete with their margins, being a solitary wine shop. Instead, we put even more effort into finding wines from smaller, artisanal wineries, where there is still value to be found, but the quality is supreme.
How many suppliers do you work with, and what do you think makes a good supplier?
We work with 14 different suppliers, and the best are those who offer great service. There is a lot of unpredictability in the market and we like suppliers that are capable of quick turnarounds when an enquiry comes along. I have a great relationship with suppliers that take the effort to get to know me, my palate, my style and call me two minutes after they’ve tasted a wine they think I would like.
Conversely, what makes a bad supplier?
Lack of service. Plain and simple. Answer the phone, answer your email, give us a heads up on a vintage change. We aren’t asking for much really, although for some it’s clearly too hard to master.
What is the best way for a supplier to contact you?
I would like to see a new supplier sending in a bottle of something they think is a wine we should be doing, their wine list and their business card. It is definitely not a good idea to walk in off the street with no appointment.
What is your average price per bottle/glass?
In our retail environment, our most concentrated range of wines is in the £20-£30 range. In the restaurant £50-£70 and by the glass offering is in the early teens.
What trends are you seeing in terms of what people are buying?
Argentina is still very big, with Malbec dominating our sales, but recently we are seeing quite an upturn in South African wines, which is great considering that only a few years ago they had a bad reputation.
Which countries and grape varieties are most in demand and how is that changing?
Argentinian Malbec is definitely top of the list and I think Chablis would currently take the white wine crown. Interestingly, Sauvignon Blanc is starting to drift away, after being top for a long time, and red Burgundy is a very rare sale, mostly due to incredible price increases over the past couple of years.
Which countries and styles do you seeing becoming popular over the next 12 months
I think South Africa is going to gain a nice market share in the next year, especially with the Brexit fiasco looming over us, bringing uncertainty to EU wines. I also think more and more people buy wines based on their holidays and South Africa being a popular destination for Brits, we will see a lot of them buying wines from the wineries they visited there.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business going into 2019
Brexit. Everyone has seen the influence the referendum had in the past few years on the wine business, the devaluation of the pound resulting in price increases and the possible no-deal scenario might make it difficult to keep stock in check later in 2019. I’m sure we will adapt as a community, but I think this will reshape wine lists across the country in a major way.
What are the biggest opportunities?
I think the opportunities are there for the more adventurous. With the emergence of wine apps, and people getting more and more educated in wine, we will be able to shift more new wines than ever. Our customers are asking for recommendations with more open-mindedness than before and that can only be good for emerging wineries that are experimenting with intriguing grape varieties and different winemaking techniques.
About the Author
Richard Siddle is an award-winning business editor with over 25 years of experience working across a number of fields including computing, FMCG, grocery and convenience retailing, travel and for the last 10 years wine and spirits. He spent much of that time as editor of Harpers Wine & Spirit where he was widely recognised for having turned one of the UK’s oldest publications into an agenda-setting, must-read for the drinks industry.