Wine opportunities plentiful in the trade

The right supplier can guide operators through any challenges facing the category

Demand for quality wines is said to be on the up, and is expected to continue through 2018

LAST year was widely reported as a bad year for wine producers worldwide – with the French region of Bordeaux ravaged by frost, California’s wine country hit by high temperatures and forest fires, and Italy’s Prosecco region affected by a heat wave, frost and hail.

The result is said to be a severely reduced crop, which has had a particular impact on the harvests of lower-tier wines, according to reports.

While many firms have absorbed some of the costs associated with the poor harvest, wine suppliers warned that operators could face price rises in the coming months.

David Gleave, managing director of Liberty Wines, said: “The 2017s are now starting to find their way into the supply chain and the price increases at source will inevitably lead to price increases for operators.”

Similarly, Toby Sigouin, wine buyer at Inverarity Morton, who described 2017 as a “very challenging year for wineries in Europe because of unusually abnormal weather”, said poor harvests “have had an impact on wine prices; these costs are only now being passed on to customers”.

However, Billy Bell of Wine Importers said that while prices “are affected… in my experience this is a blip and hopefully with a bountiful harvest this year – they’ve had a lot of rain so far and huge snowfalls which was not the case in 2017 – grape prices will improve”.

Beyond fluctuations in price, reduced harvests are also said to have influenced recent wine trends.

Dan Harwood of Halewood Wines & Spirits said sales of Romanian wines were up 95% in the second half of 2017 – and he expects this to continue.

“Renewed interest and focus on Eastern European wines has contributed to this growth, as well as consumers’ desire to find something new and exciting away from the standard go-to wine regions,” he said.

“This trend towards Eastern European wines – and Romanian wines in particular – is expected to continue in 2018, particularly as the big three producers in Europe – France, Spain and Italy, have faced such reduced harvests.

Echoing this view, Nick Tatham, wine development manager at CWF, said “the continued growth of interest in wines from Romania, Georgia and Moldova… have the capacity to attract reasonably savvy wine-drinkers who wish to diversify and be amongst the first to explore new regions”.

Wines from Turkey and Greece are also beginning to appear in the on-trade, albeit “in very limited distribution so far”, added Tatham.

Bell of Wine Importers reckons “the thirst for Malbec has not been quenched and continues to soar”.

Ultimately, however, working with the right supplier is said to be crucial to success.

Jon Harris of Hallgarten & Novum Wines reckons operators should work with a specialist when curating their wine list.

He said: “They are able to bring focus and training to a very important source of revenue – and a good one should be able to make you more money through clever wine list design and better staff engagement.”

Sigouin of Inverarity Morton reckons “a strong working relationship” between operator and supplier “will translate to the operator having a wine list that is always ‘match-fit’”.

“It goes way beyond price; it’s about breadth and depth of the portfolio, customer service and track record in the trade,” said Sigouin.

Mike Stewart of Liberty Wines agreed, saying the right supplier offers operators ongoing support.

“The work of all good wine suppliers starts, not stops, when we deliver the wines,” he said.

“We then need to help our customers sell them.

“Staff education both on and off site – not just on wine – regular tastings to try new wines and new vintages, producer visits, and in-depth market insights are all part of the service offered by wine suppliers who value and understand the on-trade.”