• Richard Siddle: if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is

    Finding the right wine for your business at the right price is what keeps the buyer’s world going round. But with less wine to go round from a poor global 2017 vintage buyers are going to have to be even more vigilant about the quality and consistency of wine that they do agree to buy.

    Finding the right wine for your business at the right price is what keeps the buyer’s world going round. But with less wine to go round from a poor global 2017 vintage buyers are going to have to be even more vigilant about the quality and consistency of wine that they do agree to buy.

    mm By January 20, 2017

    Drinks buyers will need to be doubly vigilant that the wine they buy is the wine they receive.

    As we still try and find the best deals and discounts in the on-going New Year sales, we should also keep in mind just why certain items are being promoted or price slashed after what has been the biggest consumer spending time of the year.

    Bargains that look like real steals now, don’t always turn out that way when they break down, or have holes in them just a few weeks later.

    The same rule of thumb also applies to the wine buying world. And not just for the first few weeks of January.

    Now we might currently not have the equivalent of New Year sales when it comes to sourcing and buying wine from around the world, but that does not mean wine producers, agents and sellers are not trying to catch the eye of buyers with what appears to be a super competitively low price for a volume of wine.

    As we go in to 2017 with one of the lowest global vintages of wine over the last 20 years there is going to be increased pressures on buyers to find the right allocations of wine for their customers.

    But with less wine to go around it is not going to be as easy as in previous years to find what you want.

    Which equally opens the doors for less scrupulous members of the global wine trade to come to the fore.

    It is not just the fine wine world where fakes, and imitations are being passed off as the real thing. If there are those in the trade capable of duping some of the most knowledgeable and experienced fine wine buyers in the world, then it stands to reason that equal skulduggery is at play at the lower end of the quality and price scale as well.

    Warning signs

    Appearances can be deceptive: samples sent are not always the wines that end up in the bottle
    Appearances can be deceptive: samples sent are not always the wines that end up in the bottle

    Just ask Noel Reid of Robinsons Brewery, a senior UK wine buyer, who spends much of his year travelling, and sourcing wines from all over the world. He has become increasingly sceptical and disillusioned about the quality and consistency of the wine he is being offered by some producers in most key wine making countries.

    Reid should know, for he is the heart of the nitty gritty of wine buying. Over the last four or five years Robinsons Brewery has identified wine as a key investment for what is family run brewery business and has been able to grow its sales, and margins, significantly by sourcing its wines direct from producers rather than relying on third party suppliers.   

    Which considering it manages an estate of over 300 pubs across the north of the UK can be a sizeable business for a winery to win. 

    Its point of difference has been to source quality, award winning house wines that it can sell at below £20 a bottle in its pubs.

    To do so has meant moving its supply base from third party UK suppliers that were making up 98% of its 300 SKU list, to a range that is now 80% exclusively sourced direct from wineries around the world.

    Test and test again

    Reid is meticulous in his research. Before a recent trip he asked for samples of 150 Chardonnays, 150 Chenin Blancs and 150 Pinot Noirs from different producers. From which he whittled each list down to 10 and asked again for more samples from those wineries before arranging to go and see them personally.

    But time and again he had to go back and ask for further samples as the quality was not the same as the initial wines presented. What he thought he was hoping to buy, was not always what was sent. Hence another producer was crossed off his list.

    Not every buyer is as painstaking as Reid and that’s the worry. Over the next 12 months we can expect to see more and more instances of the wine being sent as samples, not always being the same as the one that is finally delivered.

    Checking and re-checking what you think you have bought is going to be even more important in a year when there is a whole lot less wine to go around. Particularly if you are buying large quantities of wine from a new producer or a winery in a country without a long track record of supplying quality, reliable wine.

    That is not to cast aspersions on new and upcoming wineries. It is simply to serve as a gentle reminder that if a deal appears too good to be true, then the likelihood is it probably is. 

    • This is an edited article from one first published on VINEX, the global online trading site for bulk wine. 

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