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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Leading figures in the wine trade have formed an action group - the Wine Trade Action Group (WTAG) - to give the wine sector its own voice over key issues and to provide a forum to frame strategies and responses to specific concerns and issues. Following an exchange of letters before Christmas, a meeting took place last Friday between 22 people representing most of the UK's leading wine companies. They agreed to form WTAG and set up a working party (see panel) to identify the main social, fiscal and legislative issues facing the wine industry in the United Kingdom'. The group is at pains to emphasise that the process will, of course, include discussion with the Wine and Spirit Association (WSA) and other appropriate parties'. The working party includes the managing director of Thierry's, Peter Darbyshire, who is deputy chairman of the WSA. The initiative follows disquiet among some influential figures in the wine trade that the wine sector needs its own voice and, for example, that it may get tarred with the same brush as beer and RTDs/FABs (ready-to-drink spirits or flavoured alcoholic beverages) regarding underage drinking and the current media favourite binge drinking'. To that end, one suggestion is to frame a charter or code of practice for the trade regarding potentially contentious matters, such as marketing, merchandising and selling wines to younger consumers. The feeling among many in the trade is that the beer and spirits companies - including huge multinationals such as Diageo, Allied Domecq and Scottish & Newcastle - call the shots when it comes to lobbying the government over forthcoming legislation and duty increases. And the likes of the WSA and the Portman Group, let alone the Scotch Whisky Association, are dominated by the big players who provide the majority of the funding for these lead bodies. The working party will not be concerned with commercial trading issues', and the plan is that it will make recommendations to the whole group in three to four months. The hope is that all UK wine importers will want to be involved. Interested parties should contact John Doswell ( or 020 8332 2901) or any of the members of the working party.