The Buyer linked up with Wines of Virginia last week to hold our first business roundtable with leading figures from across the UK premium on-trade as it looked to introduce not only its wines to key potential buyers, but to help them assess the best routes to market for their wines.
Thinking you have the right quality of wines for to export to the UK is one thing, hearing first hand directly from front line buyers just how good or appropriate they are for this market is quite another.
But it is why Wines of Virginia was so keen to put its wines and leading wine producers on the line as it looks to carefully plot the right export strategy for its premium winemakers. Virginia, as the buyers soon discovered on our panel, does not make average wine. Its climate, its topography and its soils all align to help it produce arguably some of the finest wines to come from America outside of California.
The challenge is having enough of it to enable the generic body and its producers to build a credible export strategy.
The UK, however, is very much at the top of the list for those producers willing to keep allocations away from its domestic market. But to do so means understanding the market, knowing and recognising the challenge and targeting what are ultimately reasonably small amounts of wine at the right channels, and most appropriate businesses and venues.
To help them The Buyer was able to recruit an A list team of buyers and commentators from across the premium on-trade. They included:
- Zack Charilaou,wine director at M Restaurants that has two multi-faceted veneues at Threadneedle Street in the City and its latest venue on Victoria Street five minutes from Victoria Station.
- Edward Gerard, wine buyer at Harrods and responsible for sourcing and managing wine not only for its retail store, but also for the 25 plus restaurants it has across the site.
- Simon Jerrome, purchasing director for Matthew Clark, the leading national drinks distributor
- Peter McCombie MW, restaurant consultant and responsible for sourcing and creating wine lists for venues across different channels and areas of the premium on-trade
- Joe Wadsack, wine judge, commentator and consultant
Taking part from the Virginia side were:
- Rachel Martin from the Boxwood Winery
- George Hodson from Veritas
- Luca Paschina from Barboursville
- Annette Boyd from Virginia Wine
- Chris Parker, New Horizon Wines
Topics up for debate include looking at the overall American wine market and which wine styles, price points and channels of the UK on-trade that they are particularly suited for. With that on board we were able to look more specifically at the needs of the Virginia producers and assess their wines in turn to determine which ones would be suitable for which channels of the trade.
The Buyer will be producing a full report from the event, including a subsequent tour for the producers of leading on-trade outlets and venues that might be suitable for their wines. This included visits to Vinoteca, Noble Rot, Vagabond, 28-50 and Goodmans. Here is a pictorial flavour of the day for you.