27 March 2018
Experts in the wine trade discuss 'pain points' of wine sales and distribution
Napa, Calif.—Brian Phillips, director of wine strategy for Darden Restaurants, says wineries better be sure their product is of consistent quality and well represented. Otherwise, wine risks losing further market share in the on-premise sector, especially to spirits.
Phillips, currently pursuing final certification as a master sommelier, manages the wine program for Darden, which operates more than 1,700 restaurants including Capital Grille, Yard House, LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden restaurants. The company’s total sales in 2017 surpassed $7 billion, he said.
He said the company can serve about 250,000 people a day and about 25% of those order wine. Assuming all that wine is sealed with cork and 3% to as much as 12% of those corks could be tainted, he said that’s a huge number of bottles with potential problems. Unless a customer detects a problem, however, they will be served that wine no matter what. With more than 175,000 employees, Darden can’t train its servers to screen wines prior to serving. “Maybe they consume it and don’t go back to it,” he said. “That’s a big concern.”
Phillips’ remarks came during a panel discussion that was part of the Fifth Annual Wine Conversations forum hosted earlier this month by French closure supplier Diam, its North American distributor G3 Enterprises and Full Circle Wine Solutions. In addition to Napa, the companies also hosted the event in Paso Robles, Calif., and Newberg, Ore.