Peter Benko's Views on Wine Selection and Current Trends
“Style, Origin, Market Conditions and Demand are the deciding factors for Wine Selection.” says Peter Benko
Peter Benko is currently working as Wine Store Manager at Le Pont De La Tour London, a French restaurant on the coast of Thames river. He has over 8 years’ experience as a sommelier and wine shop manager. Peter had a one on one interview with London Wine Competition team, where he shared his thoughts on wine selection and current wine trends.
Can you give us a brief background to the business and who your customers are?
Le Pont de La Tour is a classic French restaurant overlooking the River Thames and with views over to the City and Tower Bridge, with a long history and reputation that dates back to ’90s. Our customers vary from regulars to tourists.
Explain your wine range and what you are looking to offer?
We have a strong emphasis on French wines with half of the selection coming from France. Classic names from other countries like Barolo and Barbaresco are working well plus all-time favourites such as Malbecs and Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc continue to sell well.
What about wines by the glass?
We offer nine sparkling wines by the glass, from Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Rosé Champagne at £25 to an Argentinean fizz, Domaine Chandon Brut for £11. We also offer an English sparkler, Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvée for £15 a glass. We also have nine still white wines by the glass from an Argentinean Torrontes for £9 up to a Puligny-Montrachet for £25. On the reds, we also offer wine by the glass, from a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero for £10 to a Tinta de Toro for £25.
What criteria do you use to decide what wines to list?
Style, origin, market conditions and demand.
How has the range evolved since you started out?
The range was reduced from 1,200 wines to 500 in the last five years.
How many suppliers do you work with, and what, in your mind, makes a good supplier?
We currently work with 15 suppliers. I think a good supplier is one that is stable and offers a comprehensive portfolio, as well as high quality and competitive pricing. We also look for quick response time and good communication skills. Precise invoicing is also another important factor as well as a short lead-time for deliveries. Finally, a good understanding of the business and our customers is essential.
Conversely, what makes a poor supplier?
The opposite of the above!
What is the next big thing?
We have “rebuilt” our wine shop, which offers an eclectic range of wines, liqueurs, spirits and cigars from all over the world. We offer rare wines that have been made from traditional techniques and ancient methods in natural and biodynamic ways.
Which countries and grape varieties are most in demand?
As Le Pont is a strongly French-accented restaurant French wines are taking the lead with Clarets and Burgundies, followed by Italy and Spain. From the New World, South America and New Zealand are in demand. As for grape varieties, old favourites such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are all popular.
Any other emerging trends you've noticed?
People are drinking less and definitely being more cautious with their spending.
What advice would you give anyone looking to open their own wine business?
First and foremost, business is based on people.
Find more interesting articles from the author:
For more interviews, visit London Wine Competition Interviews Section.
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.