I am currently in the UK waiting for 165 cases of wine to be delivered tomorrow to a warehouse in Cirencester. I will then check the cases and split them in to different deliveries for customers in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Stratford upon Avon, Aylesbury and London. These are wines from two excellent Languedoc producers. The logistics for this order have been challenging as there are 9 different destinations for the 165 cases. One customer has been waiting too long, which I am embarrassed about, but the other customers will welcome the stock in their shops and warehouses with plenty of time to sell the wine before Christmas. I'll be doing a very similar job next week when I have another 200 cases of Bordeaux wines arriving in the UK.
The logistics are always challenging at this time of year. There is an immense pressure to get wine in the shops in time. An estimated 40% of trade is done in the last month of the year. UK consumers still know how to party.....even in the midst of a recession.
Last year England was severely hit with snow and bad weather in the crucial trading period two weeks before Christmas. This wiped out some sales and also made the actual Christmas week the most congested sales week ever.
The UK wine market is still strong. There is a diversity and vibrancy within the independent retail sector and fine dining. The problems have arisen in the 'squeezed middle', IE the chains such as Threshers, Oddbins, Bottoms Up, Peter Dominic and Wine Rack have mostly disappeared either due to faulty business models, fluctuating exchange rates or having the wrong product for the wrong clientele.
I am always optimistic, whilst also being realistic to understand that it is challenging for many people if you do not have a job or have suffered financially.
My concern is the polarisation of the UK wine trade. The supermarkets (by their scale) demand bland, uniform 'industrial' produced wine that can neatly fit in to a price promotion. The supermarkets have been great to bring people in to wine, but they channel people in to branded commodities rather than make people open their minds and explore further.
We need vibrant, quality independent merchants such as DBM Wines, Oeno Wines, Woodwinters Wines, Raffles Wines, Vin Neuf Wines, Cellar Door Wines, Adnams Wines,Lea & Sandeman and The Vineking. These are just a few (you can google their contact details). They are all run by passionate people who are keen, enthusiastic wine lovers. People who care about what they are doing and they care about the customer. These wine merchants want to engage with their customers and they want loyalty. That loyalty comes from offering quality, interesting wines. Cheers!