When Beyond Wines launched last summer they did so with the promise that they would break the mould of a typical wine supplier. A few months on and Alex Green and Matthew Johnson are living up to that pledge. They have hired a new brand manager from the fashion industry and have developed, from scratch, and launched a new wine brand, Liquid Diamond, that has been designed specifically to appeal to the Instagram generation of wine drinkers, and uses emojis as taste descriptors on the label. Richard Siddle catches up with their story.
When we started The Buyer our mission statement was all about how we could play a part in bringing producers and importers together by helping them better understand their respective needs. Well, in the case of Ross Sleet and the South African wine brand, Rascallion Wines, and Jamie Wynne-Griffiths, founder of Propeller, the new breakthrough wine supplier, The Buyer has managed inadvertently to do just that. They both read pieces about each other’s business on the site, liked what they saw, rang each other up and within a matter of weeks are now doing business together. Matchmaker Richard Siddle caught up with them.
In his career as a drinks buyer Ivan Dixon, be it during all the years he decided what went on the shelves at Harvey Nichols, or more recently what brands ended up as part of Enotria&Coe’s portfolio, has nosed, swilled, spat, tasted and drunk thousands of wines and spirits. In fact there is probably not one premium spirit brand on sale in the UK that has not passed across his desk at some stage in its life. So for him to agree to not just be a brand ambassador for a new spirits brand, but invest in it too means the launch of a new brand from Kenya – Procera gin – named after the country’s indigenous Juniperus Procera juniper berry, really needs some investigating.
The fact so many of Corney & Barrow’s senior management team that have been with the business for some time has been a major plus during Covid-19 such has been the need to radically change the way it does business. Richard Siddle talks to Rebecca Palmer, associate director and head of commercial buying for the wine merchants, about what has been by far the most eventful 12 months in her 15 years with the business and how the team’s collective experience has been invaluable in first re-assessing what it needed to do and then, with all hands to the helm, go out and achieve it. It is also an opportunity for her to reflect on how her wine buying role has changed in her career and what she now sees as the key attributes and skills needed to be an effective, quality driven, but also highly commercially focused wine buyer in the UK wine industry.
The best restaurants and bars don’t just pick their drinks supplier by the quality of their beers, wines and spirits. That’s a given. It is now increasingly all the extra added value support, insights and consultancy service that national suppliers in particular can provide that sets one operator apart from another. It’s where Bibendum has worked hand in hand with its customers to help them come out of lockdown in as strong a position as possible, as its senior management team explains to Richard Siddle in part two of The Buyer’s analysis of Bibendum’s lockdown performance.
“We know where we have come from – and that’s serving the on-trade,” is how Nigel O’Sullivan, founder and managing director of Fine Wines Direct UK, sums up the last 12 months that has seen this almost exclusive Welsh on-trade distributor diversify into retail and e-commerce for the first time. For whatever new business it has been able to achieve, the company’s heart, soul and DNA lies in the on-trade. Here Richard Siddle catches up with O’Sullivan and sales director Bastien Martinole, to look back on 2020, but assess where Fine Wines Direct UK goes from here.
Are you reading this sitting at home, on a bank holiday, toying with the idea of going for a run, getting outside and doing some exercise, but lacking the motivation, the inspiration to do so? Well, here’s a warning for you. Read this and you will have your running shoes on before you have finished it as Jerry Lockspeiser explains why running has become so important in his life that he has co-written a book that shares the experiences of a rich tapestry of people and what running has meant to them…and their lives. Please read on…it’ll be good for you.
Covid-19 has had both a collective and individual impact on everyone working in the drinks, retail and hospitality industries. Whatever your role very few people, if any, have come out of the last 12 months unaffected by the slings and arrows that the pandemic has thrown at us. Throughout The Drinks Trust has stood firm providing front line support for those who needed it most. It has now set up The Drinks Community to act as an online support platform open to anyone in the industry to share experiences, advice and act as a networking service to help us all for the long term. The site’s community manager, Millie Milliken explains how it works.
A new agency specialising in Indian wines – appropriately called ‘Wines in India’ – has been launched in the UK with the hope it can shine a concerted light on what is a growing and increasingly dynamic wine scene. Sumita Sarma takes a look behind the scenes and highlights the six top ranking Indian wine producers that have been brought together as part of this new exclusive range.
If you have been to South Africa then one of the most striking differences is the vast array of flowers, fauna and the distinctive fynbos that you can’t find in any country. Local drinks company Geometric Drinks hopes to capture the unique flavours, spices and aromas to be found in all that wildlife in its range of products that includes the Symmetry collection of natural botanical distillates that have been turned into three tonic essences. Here James Thomas of UK wine importer, Tiger Vines, explains why he is so pleased to be able to bring the brand to the UK.
Behind all the swilling, tasting and spitting that goes on in the wine industry, what really makes the sector tick is the size of the respective harvests in each of the main wine producing countries, combined with the exchange rate that dictates the price and value of those wines to any potential buyer around the world. It means any successful wine businesses also needs a carefully thought out foreign exchange currency strategy that keeps them ahead of the market. Here Jamie Holmes, director of CurrencyWave, that specialises in “smarter global payments” explains just what an effective currency strategy might look like.
We have seen many businesses emerge under the shadow of Covid-19, but few can have had the impact the team behind the new wine in a can brand, The Copper Crew, have had – particularly when you consider they have never actually been in the same room together and they have started, and established their business all through Zoom, with two of the three founders in the UK and one in South Africa. But it has not stopped their Copper Crew cans picking up awards and being chosen as some of the best cans in the market by leading national wine writers – including Jancis Robinson MW. Richard Siddle talks to the three entrepreneurs who make up The Copper Crew.
In the last year it seems every wine producer, and their importer, has discovered Instagram Live and made it their primary way of talking to their potential consumers, but for Davy’s Wine Merchants it has turned to audio to help bring its producers closer to its customers. Davy’s marketing executive, Lawrence Francis, explains how it has been able to lift sales off the back of its new ‘Winemaker Audio Series’ and how his own experience running his ‘Interpreting Wine’ podcast has helped understand what the most effective way of using audio to sell wine is.
Talking to Erica Parisi earlier this month was the interview equivalent of a ray of sunshine appearing from behind a dark cloud, as she shared both the thrill and anticipation of starting her new role as senior account manager at Armit Wines, but also the passion and genuine enthusiasm she has working in the wine industry. Richard Siddle tries to capture just some of her infectious excitement.
When he is not fielding off calls from the national press bogged down in trying to understand Brexit red tape, Daniel Lambert is busy running his successful wine agency and distribution business. Over nearly the last 20 years he has built up a strong network of customers, particularly amongst independent wine merchants, who have been drawn to his work ethic of seeking out the kinds of producers and their wines that work so well on premium wine lists and for consumers looking for something new and exciting to drink. Richard Siddle talks to him about how he has pulled it all together.
For a wine producer getting your wines into the ultra competitive UK market has been one of the hardest challenges they face around the world. Such is the sophisticated and long standing network of wine agencies, distributors and wholesalers it’s hard to know where to start. The pressure on those agencies and importers has never been greater such has been the impact of Covid-19 and all the subsequent lockdowns, closure of the on-trade and the knock-on effects they have had. Jamie Wynne-Griffiths believes he has come up with a new distribution model that really puts the needs of wine producers first and is ideal for the uncertain times we are living in. His new Propeller business allows producers to ship, store and only sell their wine on consignment in the UK, with a model that gives them control over the relationships they build up with UK retail and on-trade customers.
While we await to see what the new US administration will do with tariffs, Scotch whisky is counting the cost with export sales massively hit. So what does it mean for Berry Bros, which has a sizeable international clientele? And how has the company been coping with that ‘other thing’? Peter Dean caught up with BBR’s reserve spirits manager, Doug McIvor, on the eve of its Spirits Winter Release which includes a one-off Chinese New Year special to celebrate the Year of the Ox.
Peter McAtamney might be based in Australia, but he’s got his finger on the pulse of the UK on-trade, particularly the fiercely competitive wine supply chain that supports it, thanks to the succession of reports he produces through his business Wine Business Solutions. Every year he also produces a league table of just how well wine distributors are doing in terms of their overall performance and competitive strategy. A table only those willing to pay for it can access. But here he shares his overall insights into just how well the wine distributor sector is doing, and reveals who is the number one importer in its just released UK Wine On-Premise 2021 report.
If this time last year we had started an article promising you the very latest on VI-1 forms then we probably would not have got many people past the first paragraph. Well, 12 months on and all the wine news is about Chief systems, EX1, and EAD forms, thanks largely to a Welsh-based wine importer, Daniel Lambert, who has been making national news on the trading complexities of Brexit. It’s been quite a few weeks for Lambert as he has been thrust into the public domain as the wine industry’s face and voice of dealing with Brexit. Richard Siddle managed to find a gap in his diary to hear first hand how he has coped being in the media spotlight…and importing wine from the EU.
China’s national drink has not gained the best international reputation. A clear liquor usually made from a Chinese grain called sorghum, many experience baijiu as a fiery shot thrust upon them at a business event. But there’s much more to the spirit than the bottom’s-up culture that’s gained such notoriety, says Qiqi Chen, managing director of UK-based baijiu importer Cheng International. She says we have a lot left to learn about this spirit, its diversity, and its place in Chinese culture and history.