As the wine industry’s great and good prepare to descend on Dusseldorf for ProWein ‘23, the team from Lanchester Group, its subsidiaries Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling, will be putting the finishing touches to a rebranding, to be exclusively unveiled at the show. Revealed across the group’s biggest ever stand, the new messaging will have the sustainability message front and centre – as you might expect from a business that champions itself as a restless pioneer of renewable energy. David Kermode caught up with Andrew Porton, managing director of Lanchester Wines’ Wine Division ahead of ProWein, to find out what to expect.
“Let’s not forget that Lanchester Group was very big on sustainability when most people were not even thinking about it,” says Andrew Porton. It’s a message it will be proudly be re-inforcing at next week’s ProWein.
The wine industry is about to head to ProWein – how important is the show for you and your colleagues?
It is very significant because I think it is the one event that is important to everybody. In buying terms, our bulk contacts are represented, but it is also where we get to meet and do business with some of our main agency contacts too. It’s such a global forum for the wine industry that it is the place where you see great ideas first and we shall be scouting for a couple of new supplier partners. We also share our stand with some of our Australian principles, so it is one big get together – as well as an opportunity to walk 30-thousand plus steps a day.
What are you most excited about showcasing at ProWein?
We’re showing off our new look for the Lanchester Group, for Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling, which is having a bonanza year, massively expanding with the new Greencroft Two this year, of course. What we’re focusing on with the new branding is something that we think we do particularly well at Greencroft: taking care of someone else’s vision, taking care of someone else’s wine with real respect and care, so that is something that will be reflected.
For Lanchester Wines, we will also have a new look, feel and tone which reflects our heritage as a wine importer of 40 years standing, but also as a confident sister company alongside Greencroft. The group branding will bring everything together, including the other business areas in which Lanchester Group operates. We’re showing it all off in a stand that is bigger than ever before. I am looking forward to showcasing our boutique bulk range, revealing the more unusual side of bulk, including quite a few wines from Europe, particularly France, alongside our key agencies and brands.
Lanchester Group has trademarked the term ‘boutique bulk’ – tell us what that description means to you?
Bulk is not a very pretty word, let’s admit it, and 20 years ago, across the wine industry, bulk was seen as something undesirable, cheap, a way of offloading wine and hitting certain price points for the supermarkets, or whatever. Then, we started to see higher quality coming through the bulk channels and, these days, we have vinously exciting wines with authenticity, interesting varietals, eclectic regions, premium bulk, so what it has become is a great way of getting hold of a quality product, at a competitive price, done in a way that is sustainable and better for the environment. We have been on this journey for a long time at Lanchester Group, but it is heartening to now see bulk wine flying so high.
Lesley Cook, Lanchester Wines’ buying director, told The Buyer back in December that “bulk is now sexy”. Is that how you see it?
My team all roll their eyes when I say we can’t say the word ‘bulk’, we have to say ‘dreams’, but yes it has become seriously sexy because of the investment that has gone into it and we have serious producers who exclusively work in bulk. There’s a company in Chile called Premium Wines, which is a very generic name for a business that is anything but generic: they have fantastic vineyards in the Maule Valley, a beautiful old winery, and all they do is premium bulk. Twenty years ago that would simply not have happened.
Delegates will get to see two new films, also being unveiled on the stand, one of which focuses on Lanchester Group’s record for ‘sustainability firsts’. It sounds like a celebration?
Yes, bulk wine is rightly being celebrated for its environmental credentials right now, but let’s not forget that Lanchester Group was very big on sustainability when most people were not even thinking about it. We’re delighted that everyone has caught up, as it was always the right thing to do, and the fact that it’s now a focus for almost everyone is a great thing, because it is the right way to work.
You were quoted last year, in an interview for The Buyer, saying that bulk is now much trickier to buy because the best producers are quite picky about who they will sell to?
Yes, definitely, to work with the best people, you have to have great, long term relationships, you need to be reliable, you have to follow through on your commitments, your money has to be good and, fairly obviously, when you’re buying 24,000 litres, you have to be sure of what you’re doing. It is a challenge, because the less expensive something becomes, the more expert you have to be to deliver a bottle of wine that overdelivers at its price point.
Talk to us about Moloko Bay, a Sauvignon Blanc sourced from South Africa to fill the gap left by the temporary absence of Nika Tiki, from Marlborough?
Yes, the success of Moloko Bay is a case in point, because we didn’t source from the lowest end of the South African Sauvignon Blanc market, we sourced from a really good producer, from a region that is excellent for that variety. We always maintained that Moloko Bay was a long term commitment and, true to that, we will be showing off a new vintage of it for ProWein visitors. It is also worth saying that Sauvignon Blanc is a variety that responds really well to being bottled in the UK, with the wines as fresh as a daisy when they get to the consumer. We’re really pleased that it won a silver medal, with 93 points, on its inaugural showing at the IWSC.
The Lanchester Group is well placed to know how well different formats are going – what is your take on the potential for wines in a can, have they taken off yet?
Yes, I think they have. We have an excellent canning operation at Greencroft Bottling, which has been a great success. The quality of wine you get is excellent, cans have the shortest full circle recycling of any format, furthermore can supply has not been impacted in the way that glass has, so it has been relatively consistent. We have introduced our Wallflower range at Lanchester Wines which has gone very well and also won both a design award and travel retail award – it also received bronze at the recent People’s Choice Wine Awards where wine is tasted by consumers.
It might have seemed unusual a few years ago to have French wine brought over in bulk?
Yes it would have been really unusual, but we are now bringing quite a lot of French wine across in bulk and, in fairness, we have been doing that within Wine Fusion for some years. It is interesting because if you compare the price of a UK-bottled premium French wine with one bottled in France, the example bottled here definitely has a significant price advantage. What I love about UK bottling is the level of control that you have, over how things look, as well as how they taste.
What else are you looking to offer your customers?
Looking to be carbon neutral ourselves is just the beginning, we are able to help our customers with their own sustainability journeys and we are always very happy when they talk about it. In design terms, if you think about the traditional design idiom for the way wines looked a decade ago, with some hills, a border around it, some Times type, a touch of foil perhaps, now we are bottling products in the UK with a sophisticated, dare I say groovy look, though I do think wine still has some way to go compared to craft beer, for instance. You don’t want to scare people, obviously, but anything that a maverick wine producer can do, we can also do here in County Durham.
- You can visit Lanchester Group’s stand at Hall 14, G50 at ProWein.
- Lanchester Wines and Greencroft Bottling are partners of The Buyer.