The Drinks Trust is on course to have helped up to 5,000 extra people during 2020 who have fallen into serious difficulties because of the impact of Covid-19. The stark reality is that we are faced with months of yet more uncertainty, disruption, anxiety and job losses as businesses, and, in turn, their staff are hit by the continued fallout of the pandemic. It’s why the Drinks Trust has stepped up its efforts to offer as many people in the sector an even wider range of emotional, mental and physical support measures and services to help them as best they can, as Nicola Burston, the Trust’s operations and services manager, explains.
The pace at which the wine industry has had to respond to seismic change during 2020 and get online just to do business has been unprecedented. It has also stretched to breaking point many of the existing legacy management computer systems out there that aren’t flexible nor built for a digital era. Here Nick Martin, co-founder of Wine Owners, sets out what he sees as being the sector’s biggest technical challenges and how having a wine industry specific digital operating system running everything from your ordering, stock management, brokering through to e-commerce and other sales channels can be a real game changer.
“In the auction business we talk about the drivers for supply being death, debt, divorce,” so it’s not surprising for James Ritchie, head of wine and spirits auctions for Sotheby’s, to use that phrase when assessing the global auction market in 2020. But in this fascinating insight into what really goes on behind the scenes at the world’s famous auction house, Ritchie also shares who and where the biggest wine collectors are and how even Sotheby’s is having to break with traditions and go as digital and online as it can.
Covid-19 has tested the agility of many industries this year, none more so than hospitality. But through innovation and hard work hotel groups and restaurants have been experiencing a number of fillips, says Alan Montague-Dennis, director of prestige sales at Mentzendorff. Staycations, a new al fresco, fine dining at home and trading up on the wine list (when possible) have brought about some unexpected returns. In this insightful piece Alan explains how his role allows him to flex with changing needs and to stay nimble – literally – on his Brompton bike, a key part of the company’s approach to sustainability and mental wellbeing, and helping him keep a positive spin on things.
The fast changing wine market is putting even greater pressure on producers, importers and operators alike to find ever more cost effective and efficient ways of moving, listing and selling wine. Matthew Johnson and Alex Green have been at the forefront of the changes wine suppliers have made during their time at Copestick Murray and Freixenet Copestick, helping to source and create brands and exclusive wines for customers. They have now branched out on their own to set up their own business – Beyond Wines – which they believe has its own USP and, in doing so, can find its edge against steely competition.
At first it looks like an unlikely collaboration – between a wine company that started life as a market ‘stall’ in London’s Borough Market and the new generation of Bordeaux ‘aristocracy’. But that’s what makes Borough Market’s Refill Bottle scheme all the more interesting and, with Damien Barton’s input and connections, could give its Zero Waste strategy all the more impetus. Now in charge of the direction of Château Langoa Barton in Saint Julien, Damien Barton has a number of projects on the go, including his own wine sales and distribution company, 225, but what they all have in common though is a drive to put sustainability at the heart of each company’s modus operandi. Peter Dean talked to him about how the wine industry can take sustainability more seriously on the day that Borough Wines’ new Refill portfolio is launched.
Probably the most transformative change during Covid-19 has been how quickly people have gone online and embraced ecommerce. It has opened up huge new opportunities to those drinks and hospitality businesses able to capitalise with effective ecommerce platforms. Martin Litt is here to help companies make the most out of online with his new business – Quaff Digital – that he has set up on being made redundant during lockdown. He shares his story as part of The Buyer’s ongoing Onwards & Upwards series.
For years the wine trade has collectively trudged along to Lindley Hall and other traditional wine tasting venues across London to attend the latest major generic or distributor portfolio event. In recent years there have been an increasing number of dissenting voices questioning whether this is the most effective use of our time, and to taste potentially 100s of wines. Covid-19 has ripped up the old tasting routine and given the sector a blank piece of paper on which to re-invent the trade tasting. Here Nik Darlington, co-founder of Graft Wine explains how it has just hosted a month long range tasting – online.
The Buyer introduced its ‘Raise a Glass To’ awards this summer to shine the light on individuals who we believe have gone the proverbial extra mile to help the industry we all work in. Today we shine the light on Katy Moses, managing director of KAM Media, who has helped share the views of leaders right across the hospitality and retail sectors in a series of video interviews from the moment we went into lockdown on March 23, as well as give her own expertise for free in countless webinars and reports she, and her team, have produced during Covid-19. For all your efforts The Buyer Raise a Glass to You.
If you are an experienced wine buyer, specialising in a particular country have you ever thought of making the most of your expertise by going it alone? It’s what James Hocking did when he moved on from The Vineyard Cellars, the business where he made his name, importing Californian wine for The Vineyard in Berkshire, at the beginning of 2019. Here he shares what’s its been like starting his own business and then having to deal with Covid-19.
Like the rest of the drinks industry, Corney & Barrow had the proverbial rug pulled from under its collective feet with the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown that saw the on-trade close and with it a large chunk of its daily business. But thankfully having its eggs placed in a number of different trading channels has meant Corney & Barrow has been able to adapt, divert resources and find new and innovative ways of selling and distributing its range of wines. As Tim Wheeldon, on-trade sales manager, explains.
No matter how bad your nightmares might have been in recent weeks they would have to be pretty awful to beat the living drama we are all having to go through with the impact of Covid-19 on all our working lives, and – as we have been reminded of so bluntly by the shenanigans in the House of Commons this week – the impending deadline of January 1 when the UK formally leaves the EU. It’s a situation that Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, summed up perfectly in the speech he gave yesterday to kick off the WSTA’s online summit. Here’s his take on the dangers that lie ahead and why as a sector we all need to be batting as one to get as good an outcome from Covid-19 and Brexit as we can.
Entering major international drinks competitions is an important part of any producer, importer or retailer’s marketing budget. But it’s going to be harder than ever to find the resources to enter your products with all the other costs and issues that Covid-19 has thrown up. Which is why The People’s Choice Wine Awards has introduced new bursaries, with the support of Wines of Portugal and Smurfit Kappa, to help with entries to three of the categories in its 2021 competition.
You don’t have to look very far to see what a difficult time this is for so many individuals, never mind businesses, in the hospitality sector and all the companies that supply it. There is an even bigger concern that the situation is going to get a whole lot worse once the stabilsers of the furlough system are taken away in the autumn. It’s why The Buyer is today starting a new series – ‘Onwards & Upwards’ – where we give a platform to those in the restaurant, bar, wine, and drinks industries, who are looking for a fresh start, to explain who they are, their background and what sort of opportunity they are looking for. First up is Jon Clement who is looking for a new challenge on leaving his position at The Big Table Group.
Of all the new entrants into the wine sector in recent years Wanderlust Wine has stood out as it came into the industry with a new business model. One focused on a technology and distribution solution that meant from day one it could offer same, or next day delivery, for direct to consumer, the off-trade and on-trade at the same time. It’s a model that has served it well during Covid-19 with a boom in online sales, where its range of eclectic and exclusive wines from experimental winemakers around the world, have been in high demand. For our latest video interview Richard Siddle talks to its founder Richard Ellison, and its new head of trade Françoise Mathis, who left Roberson Wine last month, about what they see as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for smaller, niche importers, and how new equity funding raised during lockdown will help Wanderlust take its digital first – ‘Vintech’ – business model to the next level.
Week after week we have seen new initiatives launched by our major drinks wholesalers, and their producer partners, to help their on-trade customers, in particular, cope with the on-going fall out of Covid-19. One of the most eye catching has been the pledge by Hallgarten & Novum Wines to provide £700,000 of free glasses of wine to as many of its on-trade customers as it can during September. Here managing director, Andrew Bewes, explains how the scheme is going to work and what impact he hopes it can have on the wider hospitality sector.
The impact of Covid-19 on the way the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors does business continues to be far reaching with a host of new initiatives and ways of working. Like this new approach by Wines of Germany to help support independent wine retailers, whilst also providing a new platform to promote and distribute its wines in the UK when retail buyers are less likely to be travelling and sourcing new wines for themselves. Nicky Forrest, head of Wines of Germany in the UK, explains how its new Retailer Partnership is going to work.
History of Booze author Henry Jeffreys has made spirits his area of expertise – writing the Masters of Malt blog during the day and conducting much fastidious drinks research by night. On the eve of the publication of his latest book, The Cocktail Dictionary, he chats to Peter Dean about the effect Covid and the Low/No generation will have on cocktails, as well as why a Palmetto would be the last drink he had on earth. We also include an exclusive extract from the book on how to make an Americano.
Across the drinks and hospitality sectors we have seen so many people and businesses really step up and stand out during the Covid-19 crisis. Be it turning their business models on their head to go direct to consumer, to throwing all their resources behind keeping up with the seemingly insatiable demand from consumers to buy their wine online. But all of this would not have been possible if it was not for the efforts of London City Bond, that has literally been the glue that has kept the industry tied together during the last few unprecedented months. It’s why today The Buyer, on behalf of the wine and drinks companies it supports, ‘Raises a Glass To’ the management and team at LCB.
On the face of it sommeliers and on-trade wine buyers are not natural bedfellows to the global bulk wine market. But in reality if restaurants, bars and pubs are sourcing wines from suppliers, particularly across the major varieties such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec, then many of them will have been shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. It’s the reason they are on people’s lists at price points that many customers are looking for. Here David Gill MW at Kingsland Drinks, one of the country’s biggest bulk suppliers, makes the case for why bulk wine is only going to become a more important part of the wines bought at all levels of the on-trade.