This week we shine the spotlight on Mags Jango, founder of wine distribution business, MJ Wine Cellars, and look at his career in the wine industry, taking a lead role on promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector and his response to winning the Master of Wine scholarship in the new Golden Vines scholarships initiative for BAME and BIPOC students awarded as part of the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation in partnership with Liquid Icons.
The standards and competition between national drinks and wine distributors in the UK is arguably the highest in the world. Each one can point to their own wall of trophies and awards, so how as a sommelier and premium on-trade buyer do you decide which one is right for you? Well, that ultimately comes down to the people that are the real DNA of how these companies work. Here The Buyer goes behind the scenes at Alliance Wine to talk to its senior on-trade sales team to find out how they work, build relationships with customers and what it is they think they do that makes them stand out from the rest.
“We have had an exciting 12 months and been able to launch a whole number of concepts into the market,” is how David Rowledge, owner of Alchemy Wines, looks back at what he says has undoubtedly been the busiest and arguably the most rewarding year of his career in the wine and drinks industry, which has culminated in the community.co charity drinks range and a new wine brand with former England cricketer Phil Tufnell.
Nika Tiki is a Lanchester Wines best-seller, a flagship Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that’s a firm favourite with the on-trade and its customers. So Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, was facing a potential crisis when it became apparent that Marlborough’s 2021 vintage was going to have incredibly small yields. To make matters worse, such was the popularity of the previous vintage that there was nothing left from 2020. Add in a sharp increase in shipping costs and it looked like the perfect storm. Here, Cook tells David Kermode how she needed to work fast, to secure an alternative supply from South Africa, creating a new wine, Moloko Bay, that replicates the characteristics of Nika Tiki, without replacing it.
Trying to cope with the symptoms of Long COVID and the restrictions on international travel have made life tough for Steve Daniel, Hallgarten’s head of buying. In a candid interview he explains how he has managed, adding two new estates to his Greek wine portfolio, both from islands he has not sourced wine from before – Ios and Kefalonia, which the smart money predicts will be the ‘new Santorini’. So what is it about Greek wine that has continually fascinated him? From championing it back in his Oddbins days to the present, where the world has finally woken up it seems to what the country has to offer.
The conundrum facing many drinks brands is whether or not to use social media influencers in your marketing – and if you do, who are the most, well, influential to use for your products? It’s not a problem, however, for Katherine Jones. Not only does she run her own successful influencer marketing business – generating over £20m in sales for brands in only four years – she is using her influencers to help promote her new low sugar, vegan Prosecco brand, ThinK Wine, as she explains to Richard Siddle.
To help increase diversity within the drinks industry, Distill Ventures, the brand development and start up investment arm of Diageo, is launching what it is calling a new ‘Pre-Accelerator Programme’ dedicated to early stage founders from underrepresented groups that often are overlooked for corporate funding and private investment. It is pledging to invest $5 million in drinks entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds over the next 12 months. Here Distill Ventures’ portfolio director, Ara Carvallo, explains how the scheme is going to work and how it is part of its overall commitment to drive diversity and inclusion.
High street retailing and the internet have been the two channels that have kept the global drinks industry moving over the last 15 months with record sales online and Christmas-level trading in the major supermarkets. Which has been particularly good news for those preferred retail suppliers that the big chains rely on when their demand goes up. But it is only good news if you are capable of stepping up to the mark, which has been the challenge and opportunity Off-Piste Wines has grabbed with both hands throughout the pandemic.
Selling and distributing wines into the premium on-trade is as much about the relationship a producer has with its importer as it is the quality of wine being sold. Only when both have the full confidence of each other can they build on that relationship and introduce more wines and increase their footfall together. This is very much the case between Chuck Cramer, who heads up California’s portfolio from Terlato Wines in the UK, Europe, Middle East and ABS Wine Agencies, who first started working together at the end of 2020 when ABS took on Rutherford Hill, Napa and has now gone up a gear by taking on The Federalist and Dueling Pistols wines too.
We might use the same words to describe how a particular wine tastes like, but how do we know we are actually experiencing the same taste sensations when we drink that particular wine? Wine Luthier, is a new technology tool, that claims to be able to visualise the taste of any wine and help create a diagram of what that wine tastes like and then use computer science and algorithms to help winemakers, and wine buyers make wines that they scientifically know certain consumers will like based on their individual and collective taste profiles. Wine Luthier’s founder, Diego Fernández Pons, explains how it works.
The Buyer continues its series looking at wine suppliers and importers that are finding their own added value way to introduce new wines and producers to different channels of the wine market by asking Guy Smith and Stuart Bowman-Hood to put their heads above the parapet to explain how their producer first approach works at Frederick’s Wine Company in securing key, long term, contracts with major retailers, and on-trade operators.
It’s been a rollercoaster 15 months for any drinks business, but few have been hit, pulled, stretched, and then literally brought back from the dead like Jascots Wine Merchants. A business that pre-Covid-19 had a successful business model as a 100% dedicated on-trade supplier. A strategy that was ripped up from under its feet once the pandemic struck. Managing partner, Miles MacInnes, explains in candid detail just how close it came to going to the wall, and how it has been transformed in a matter of months under the ownership of Freixenet Copestick.
It’s a very nice compliment to be known as the London’s “best kept secret” by some of your customers, but it also suggests you might be missing out on more business from restaurants and bars if more knew what you can do. Here Christopher and Jon Carson open up on just what it is about Carson & Carnevale that some in the trade don’t want you to know about. It could, for example, be the fact it can offer minimum six bottle orders, six days a week in London. Richard Siddle finds out the full behind the scenes story…
Michael Palij MW has been like a caged tiger for the last year chomping at the bit to get out and visit the producers across Europe that have grown to become personal friends during their time working together through Winetraders, the wine importer and distribution business he set up in 1997. The company is most associated with Italy, and Palij is widely respected as a leading voice on the country’s wine, but, as he explains to Richard Siddle, Winetraders is now taking its footprint around the world.
We have become used over the last year to have just about anything delivered to our doors. But a carefully crafted classic cocktail made by a top Italian mixologist? Well, why not thanks to the team behind NIO Cocktails that are not only pushing premium drinks through our letter box but have come up with unique packaging that makes it possible. Richard Siddle finds out how from founder Luca Quagliano
When Beyond Wines launched last summer they did so with the promise that they would break the mould of a typical wine supplier. A few months on and Alex Green and Matthew Johnson are living up to that pledge. They have hired a new brand manager from the fashion industry and have developed, from scratch, and launched a new wine brand, Liquid Diamond, that has been designed specifically to appeal to the Instagram generation of wine drinkers, and uses emojis as taste descriptors on the label. Richard Siddle catches up with their story.
When we started The Buyer our mission statement was all about how we could play a part in bringing producers and importers together by helping them better understand their respective needs. Well, in the case of Ross Sleet and the South African wine brand, Rascallion Wines, and Jamie Wynne-Griffiths, founder of Propeller, the new breakthrough wine supplier, The Buyer has managed inadvertently to do just that. They both read pieces about each other’s business on the site, liked what they saw, rang each other up and within a matter of weeks are now doing business together. Matchmaker Richard Siddle caught up with them.
In his career as a drinks buyer Ivan Dixon, be it during all the years he decided what went on the shelves at Harvey Nichols, or more recently what brands ended up as part of Enotria&Coe’s portfolio, has nosed, swilled, spat, tasted and drunk thousands of wines and spirits. In fact there is probably not one premium spirit brand on sale in the UK that has not passed across his desk at some stage in its life. So for him to agree to not just be a brand ambassador for a new spirits brand, but invest in it too means the launch of a new brand from Kenya – Procera gin – named after the country’s indigenous Juniperus Procera juniper berry, really needs some investigating.
The fact so many of Corney & Barrow’s senior management team that have been with the business for some time has been a major plus during Covid-19 such has been the need to radically change the way it does business. Richard Siddle talks to Rebecca Palmer, associate director and head of commercial buying for the wine merchants, about what has been by far the most eventful 12 months in her 15 years with the business and how the team’s collective experience has been invaluable in first re-assessing what it needed to do and then, with all hands to the helm, go out and achieve it. It is also an opportunity for her to reflect on how her wine buying role has changed in her career and what she now sees as the key attributes and skills needed to be an effective, quality driven, but also highly commercially focused wine buyer in the UK wine industry.
The best restaurants and bars don’t just pick their drinks supplier by the quality of their beers, wines and spirits. That’s a given. It is now increasingly all the extra added value support, insights and consultancy service that national suppliers in particular can provide that sets one operator apart from another. It’s where Bibendum has worked hand in hand with its customers to help them come out of lockdown in as strong a position as possible, as its senior management team explains to Richard Siddle in part two of The Buyer’s analysis of Bibendum’s lockdown performance.