Buying wine for the ever-growing Lanchester Wines is a little more complicated than the average wine supplier, for as well as looking to source the best quality wine at the right price, there is also a need to look at the type of packaging formats the wine could be used for, be it in a keg, bag in box, a can, or straightforward bottle. We continue our look back at 2019 by asking Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, to share her buying year.
Sustainability and the impact of her wine buying on the company’s environmental footprint are both key factors in the decisions that Lesley Cook takes when sourcing wine for Lanchester Wines.
How was 2019 for you in terms of buying, sourcing and availability of wine around the world?
With the exception of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which I’m sure will have caused the same headaches for most wine buyers this year, sourcing has been as expected, no nasty surprises. This, though, is down to the hard work over the last few years during which we’ve strategically consolidated our buying team and strengthened relationships with suppliers. We’re a family business (albeit a big one) so we treat those we work with as family.
We feel it’s important to visit wineries and producers regularly, and host them at our headquarters. Many of the producers we work with find it reassuring to see the sheer scale of our business – and that of our sister companies, Greencroft Bottling and Lanchester Gifts – and understand we’re stable and here for the long term.
Which areas have been the most successful in terms of value and availability?
There are two that stand out: Chile and Argentina.
Argentina, in particular, has presented us with some great new options and opportunities. Including excellent new vineyards and exciting winemakers who are not afraid to experiment. We have also been able to unearth varietals which are unusual in the UK. New ranges will be launched in our 2020 portfolio early next year.
How do you decide to take on a new producer or partner?
As a business we are focused on quality, value and sustainability so any partners are assessed on these attributes. For example, our primary Chilean producer has been granted the Wines of Chile Seal Of Sustainability for its three tiered sustainability programme. The team believes it is their duty to preserve Chile for future generations and has developed three key sustainability projects:
- Plastic recycling, which recycles any plastic necessary within the winery.
- Woodworking project invites the local community into workshops using wood from the winemaking process.
- Native trees project plants one native tree for every 100 cases of wine sold.
This global awareness of sustainability is not going anywhere – and nor should it. Aside from our own efforts to reduce our business’ carbon footprint through generating our own renewable energy, we’re working closely with our supply chain, including logistics, wineries etc, to make sure their own sustainability programmes are relevant and credible.
Essentially we’re extending our values to our suppliers and ensuring they comply, whic, in turn, creates a trickle effect with our suppliers’ suppliers, their suppliers and so on. There’s now an inevitability to it all, sustainability as a core business principle is happening and nothing will change that.
How is the UK looking to producers now? What questions are they asking you about working here?
It’s tough. Everyone’s asking about Brexit and trying to plan for the unpredictable which I guess will be the same for everyone reading this. The spectre of Brexit and the uncertainty its created around the trade and, indeed, business in general, has certainly made trading harder these last couple of years. But, while Brexit and whatever it brings may be out of our control, we have worked hard behind the scenes to bolster our personnel, our buying power and our resources.
Are you buying wine more to fit into different packaging formats like kegs and cans?
Absolutely. We already fill into most formats through our sister company, Greencroft Bottling, which can pack into a vast list of different formats including: Glass: 18.7cl, 37.5cl, 50cl, 70cl, 75cl, 1l, 1.5l; Bag-in-box: 2.25 litre, 3 litre and 18 litre; Pouches: 1.5 litre and 2.25 litre; and cans: 200ml and 250ml slimline (187ml cans launching January 2020).
2020 will bring wine in cans firmly into the mainstream. While the can format is already popular, particularly in the multiples, the next 12 months and beyond will see the category explode across all other outlets and into the on trade. The can is a format consumers are already familiar with through soft drinks and craft beer, they’re now increasingly comfortable seeing wine in cans.
What do you see as the big opportunities and challenges going into 2020?
We need to stop fighting against ourselves. The wine trade needs to work collaboratively to drive more value into the market which will inevitably benefit us all. The multiples are trying to command such a low price per bottle to attract footfall, which is resulting in a price race to the bottom. Anecdotally one supplier I spoke to at World Bulk Wine Exhibition had been asked by a supermarket buyer to supply Australian wine at the same price as Chilean!
What was your best drinking and eating experience you had in 2020?
Sea urchin shots in Santiago – well, I’ve tried it once so at least I’ll never have to try it again! I’d much rather remember the outstanding Wagyu beef and truffle dish from the same restaurant
What did you do for Christmas?
At home with the family for Christmas then Alicante for New Year
What did you drink?
Always (my) Nika Tika MSB! Perhaps followed by the odd La Mumba or two.
What’s your favourite Christmas song?
The Pogues and Kirsty McColl – Fairytale of New York. When I hear the first starting bars on the radio I can’t help singing.