With so much competition amongst the wine importers that already exist, it’s quite a big step to launch a new business into such a crowded market place. But since Alex Green and Matthew Johnson started up Beyond Wines in the middle of Covid-19 they have not looked back with a business model that operates as a smaller, arguably more flexible alternative to the UK’s biggest distributors. It’s all based on striking strategic partnerships with key producers around the world. Here Alex Green explains how it is working with Overhex to source great value wines – and potentially breakthrough brands – from South Africa.
After the trials of Covid 19 and the continuing fallout from Brexit, wine buyers might have hoped for a calmer, quieter 2022. But Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine soon dashed those hopes, combining with post-pandemic inflationary pressures and global shortages to deliver another challenging year. So how did Lanchester Wines’ buying director, Lesley Cook, navigate the storm? And, what does she see heading her way in 2023? She tells David Kermode how she managed to steer a course through it all.
GS Wines is committed to finding exciting, different wines from across Italy to share with its growing network of trade and private customers. As it prepares for its Italian Wine Trade Tasting on October 25 and 26, its co-founder Gordon Stuteley shares his love for blended wines from Italy and why he thinks they are the gift that keep on giving. There will be an opportunity to see the GS Wines portfolio for yourself in London later this month.
It’s a busy and significant time at Enotria&Coe as it celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month and looks back on its achievements over half a century, as well as assessing how it is going to meet the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow. Part of that strategy is centred around taking its premium wine offer, and the services it can provide around it for busy sommeliers and on-trade buyers, to the next level. Which is why it’s a good time to catch up with John Graves, its new head of wine development, to get his take on a business he has re-joined and how he and his team are fully focused on making that strategy happen.
Today’s The Bunch annual press tasting stands out for two important reasons. Firstly, it is an opportunity to taste premium wines from all over the world from seven of the UK’s most leading importers. But, secondly, these are suppliers who are united by their commitment to ethically source and supply the independent sector with quality wines encapsulated in a fiercely proud code of practice that ensures best practice trading standards and customer service. Here’s what The Bunch means to some of those who run it: Corney & Barrow’s Rebecca Palmer (chair), Private Cellar’s Laura Taylor, Tanners’s Robert Boutflower and Yapp’s Tom Ashworth.
Ahead of ABS Wine Agencies portfolio tasting on September 7, The Buyer takes a behind the scenes look at how the ‘Kickstarter’ programme, launched by the California Wine Institute to introduce Californian producers to potentially the right UK importers, has resulted in ABS taking on the Hanna Winery in Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, part of Terlato Wines, whose wines will be available to taste at the London tasting alongside the rest of its growing worldwide portfolio.
Strip away their wine ranges and what really differentiates one wine distributor over another is the level of support, advice and training they can provide their customers. That is where the power of supplier and customer relationships can really come to the fore. This is very much the role of Camilla Armour, wine education trainer at Corney & Barrow, who works with restaurants, bars, hotels and pubs across the country in giving their staff the skills and confidence they need to sell wine in their venues. Here she explains to Helen Arnold how she decided to follow a career in wine training and what difference it can make to an operators’ overall performance.
It’s a busy time for trade tastings and Davy’s Wine Merchants has certainly gone the extra mile in what it has planned for its special New World wine event on September 7 that it is hosting at its head office in Greenwich, London. James Davy, chairman and the fifth generation of the Davy family to run the business, says the team has worked hard to give buyers a fully immersive tasting that will use food pairings and bespoke music matches to heighten their tasting experience of wines from all its New World wine producers.
The key challenge – and opportunity – for any leading wine importer and agency business is to ensure the range of producers it is working with are relevant for the needs and demands of their customers. It’s why Louis Latour Agencies has been able to build its impressive portfolio of producers from around the world. Here managing director, Will Oatley, gives an update on the company’s performance and why he is so pleased to welcome two premium Provence producers – Chateau des Demoiselles and Chateau Sainte-Roseline – to its growing stable.
Most wine businesses came out of lockdown looking and acting very differently to when they went into the pandemic. But not many can look back on such a transformative performance as Armit Wines. In the year to September 30 2021, and in the height of the pandemic, it saw turnover increase 7% increase to £22 million, a swing in net profit of £2m taking the business into the black to just over £1.3m and gross profits up 25.4% from 22.7%. But what were the key decisions made by managing director, Brett Fleming, and his management team that made the difference? To help us unravel the numbers and take us behind the scenes at Armit Wines we talk to head of sales Fraser Currie.
It was a big step in 2014 for Jon Lister to swap sides and move from being one of the most respected bar figures in the country, with a pile of awards to show for it, and take on a new role at Speciality Brands, and look to work with bartenders rather than be one. But, as he explains to Richard Siddle, he could not be happier in a specially created position as head of creativity and drinks which gives him the freedom to really bring Speciality Brands’ highly respected portfolio of premium brands alive in the right bars and outlets across the country.
Paul Schaafsma likes being in the wine limelight. But in his new role as head of Benchmark Drinks he has had to get used to sharing the centre stage with a roll call of major international stars that know far more about how to get our attention. Here, in this extensive interview with Richard Siddle, he shares what it has been like setting up a new wine business from scratch and how he has made celebrity wine brands not only highly fashionable, but enormously successful with Kylie Minogue hitting number one again, this time for her rosé wine brand which is part of a range that has sold over 5 million bottles in just two years. He also takes on some of the major issues facing the wine industry, how wine suppliers need to start finding better solutions for the customers they work with and why being relevant to an ever changing and demanding consumer is what drives him and his team every day.
Over the last few years Pol Roger Portfolio has quietly, carefully, and diligently built up an impressive portfolio of premium Californian wine producers that means it now has one of the most comprehensive offers available in the UK. Richard Siddle sits down with Will Dennison, Pol Roger’s head of fine wine, to talk through its range, how it has selected the producers it is now working with and what potential it sees for Californian wine in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sectors.
No matter how well you know the wine industry and established you are in your role it is always a leap of faith, and risk, to move one from position to another. Particularly when you have been in your previous role for over nine years. But when the opportunity came up to be trade director for Jeroboams wholesale division Lucie Parker jumped at the chance. Here she talks to Richard Siddle about how excited she is about this new opportunity.
Having worked for Corney & Barrow for 24 years it’s fair to say Chris Hodgson knows everything there is to know about selling wines into the premium on and off-trades. But as sales director of Corney & Barrow’s separate Scottish and north of England division, he, and his team, also need to be on top of what their restaurant, bar and private customers will be looking for next. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about the changes he has seen in the Scottish and north of England’s on-trade and private client scene over the last two plus decades and how having a dedicated Scottish and northern team has been crucial in how Corney & Barrow has been able to serve and build such long standing relationships across its thriving restaurant, bar and private customer sectors.
Start-up wine importer business, Vida Wines & Spirits, has a very clear mission. To showcase lesser-known wines, producers and winemakers from countries across Central and Eastern Europe. With interest in the new, unusual and different at an all time high it arguably could not have chosen a better year to launch. Here breakthrough wine writer Natalie Wilson talks to Olivier Freymuth, Vida’s wine buyer and head of UK sales, about how it has built up a portfolio of wines it believes can start to fill a big gap in the UK wine market. Vida’s Olivier Freymuth explains what it is about wines from Bulgaria and Slovenia that excite him over wines from the all too familiar Old and New Worlds.
Throughout the pandemic so-called “key workers” were both allowed, and expected, to work by the government throughout all the national lockdowns. When it came to keeping the UK – and international – wine and spirits sectors going over the last two years then the team at Kingsland Drinks Group certainly fell into the “key” category as it kept all its operations going, buying, importing, bottling and then distributing millions of litres of wine and spirits to its customers in all channels of the market. Here Richard Siddle sits down with Kingsland’s managing director, Ed Baker, to talk through all the various services it now offers the trade, and its ambitious plans for the future to be regarded as the UK’s most forward thinking and innovative category solutions supplier for the global drinks industry.
Tenacity, ambition, sales and wine combine to give us Kim Wilson, managing director of North South Wines, one of the fastest growing wine distribution businesses in the UK, which is as comfortable dealing with contracts for the major multiples as it is working on bespoke projects for independent wine merchants. A company that has the backing and support of its producer partners and investors, De Bortoli Wines, the Wine People and Reh Kenderman, and has many goals still to achieve as Wilson explains to The Buyer.
Selling wines and spirits in China and across Asia is not the great unknown as it was say 10 to 15 years ago when few brands had any idea where their products were being sold. But China and Asia are still highly complex markets with each country, region, state and city needing specialist help to make sure your drinks have a realistic chance of success. Which is the exact role that Nimbility claims to offer, with expert help on the ground and insiders’ knowledge of how to make the most of the opportunity for your brands in these still emerging markets. Richard Siddle talks to two of Nimbility’s three founding directors, Francesca Martin and Polly Aylwin-Foster, to find out exactly how it works.
When The Buyer first profiled Richard Ellison in 2017 about his new wine business Wanderlust Wine his goal was to try and do something that traditional wine merchants can’t or don’t want to do – which is to sell interesting wines direct to both consumers and the on and off-trades at the same time. A new trading model that was made possible by a mysterious, bespoke IT system that, he claimed, could simultaneously service different channels of the trade with minimal staff. So how has he got on? Richard Siddle caught up with Richard Ellison to find out.