You don’t need to have been in the UK wine trade for very long to know that Armit Wines is synonymous with Italian wine. It has long been one of the country’s most important and passionate importers of Italian wine with an almost unsurpassable list of producers and contacts it works with the length and breadth of the country. With a new management team and strategy in place, Italian wines are going to be even more key to its future growth and success in the on-trade, says brand manager Alex Hill.
You can see and taste for yourself on March 4 the changes Armit Wines has made to its Italian portfolio over the last 12 months to offer an even more focused choice for premium on-trade wine buyers.
How has the last 12 months gone for Armit Wines? You have been for a few changes, so how do you look back on the year?
The last 12 months has been all about re-organisation and consolidation. Our new managing director, Brett Fleming, joined us, we introduced brand managers for the first time, and have been investing heavily in our sales teams and back office. This is now translating into strong engagement into the on-trade, particularly London accounts where our investment has been targeted.
It’s already paying off and we’re hitting our ambitious sales budgets in volume, but more importantly in value as well. Ongoing this will allow us to invest in the areas we see as opportunity moving forward.
How would you describe your core customer base now?
Armit Wines has always had an incredible private client base which has allowed us to build the reputation of our portfolio directly with the consumer. We now also mirror this in our offering into targeted on-trade and independent off-trade. Our portfolio is begging to be in quality restaurants, and in front of educated and passionate consumers in more specialist retailers.
What is the main strategy and focus for the business in 2020 and how will that best be seen by customers?
Growing our distribution and making sure everyone knows Armit Wines is stable and profitable. We’re putting a lot of time into developing the reputation and presence of the core wines of our portfolio – so they’ll see the names of our producers and Armit as a whole cropping up a lot more over the next 12 months.
But our strategy isn’t just looking at 2020: we’re building five to 10 year plans for every aspect of our business to make sure that our growth is sustainable. In time, they will see more new suppliers to ensure we always have a portfolio that has adapted to the market needs.
You have a great opportunity at your Italian tasting to set the scene. What can we look forward to?
With consumers ever-more conscious of the origin and ethics of their wines, we will be highlighting all vegetarian, vegan, organic, biodynamic, sustainable wines clearly, with a panel discussion on the future of these issues in Italian wine.
We’ll also see the quality of winemaking that showed through the dry vintage of 2017 in Tuscany, and the absolute all-time greats of 2015 Brunello and 2016 Barolo.
Lastly, we’re trying something new with a ‘Curiosity Table’ – back vintages of selected wines for tasters to explore our range in more depth and see how these wines age. But there will only be one bottle of each wine, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!
Any masterclasses and seminars you are running?
Yes we have two:
2pm-3pm: From Founder to Innovator: Michele Satta and Bolgheri DOC
Michele Satta brought his entrepreneurial spirit and curious mind to Tuscany, becoming one of the father founders of Bolgheri DOC. Today his son Giacomo continues this pioneering spirit with this tiny but mighty domain, releasing some of the most ambitious Tuscan wines Armit Wines has encountered.
3.30pm-4.30pm: Punset, Musella, Querciabella
Beyond Green: The future of sustainable wine production in Italy
From Veneto to Piedmont, passing through Tuscany, we will discuss sustainable, organic, and vegan viticulture with some of the pioneers in the Italian wine scene. An unmissable opportunity to see how these techniques affect different terroirs, grape varieties, and practices can be a response to changing climate and consumer preferences.
How is Italian wine doing in general for Armit?
Italy remains the heart and soul of what we do at Armit Wines. We take great pride in representing some of the finest wines from Italy, but also in exploring new generations and developing regions. Independent merchants have continued to show strong growth in Italian wine, with like-for-like volume up 16% 2019 vs 2018, and value up 22%. On the restaurant side, we see this premiumisation even more clearly, with value up 30%.
Any stand out regions or styles of wine and why do you think that is?
Last year we launched a host of new producers from Piedmont and expanded our offering with our current agencies. The focus has shifted towards local varieties such as Freisa and more accessible Langhe wines. The response has been very positive and our sales have surged throughout 2019.
The demand for Tuscan wine remains strong overall but with 19% growth in independent retail. We are delighted to announce that we will be investing more in this region with the introduction of a new producer, Michele Satta, one of the founders of Bolgheri DOC who remains one of the most innovative producers in the appellation. Giacomo Satta will be presenting these wines at our tasting in March in one of our masterclasses.
Any areas of particular interest this year in terms of growth?
We are very lucky to have access to older vintages from some of our producers, along with the cellars of private clients who have been buying top wines on release for decades. We’re starting to free up some of these wines for sale to the on-trade in particular, which is a unique proposition for fine wine.
Are you seeing more demand for more indigenous and native varieties from Italy?
Definitely. While demand for Super-Tuscans continues at a ravenous pace, there is ever-growing interest in the smaller details of Italian wine – both in terms of lesser-known regions or sub-regions, and grape varieties. Exploring the different guises of guises of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese could be a life’s work, covering a huge range of price points, styles, and terroirs, but we are also keen to show the quality that can come from overlooked varieties.
Lighter, more elegant Primitvo from Cantele in Puglia; nutty age-worthy Pecorino from Tiberio in Abruzzo; bright, crunchy Freisa from Giacomo Fenocchio in Piedmont; or the complex and mineral Nerello Mascalese from Pietradolce on Etna; the list goes on!
Armit Wines: Italian Portfolio Tasting
The Armit Wines Italian Portfolio Tasting takes place at One Great George Street in London on March 4 between 10am and 5.30pm. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org.