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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Stuart Peskett

Off-licence chain Unwins hopes to leave its troubled past firmly behind by launching 150 new wines. The company sacked more than 100 people last year, including the entire buying team, but hopes these additions to what it admits was a neglected' range will lift the gloom. Wine sourcing manager John Hart chose the new wines, of which the Old World selection are already on the shelves, with the New Worlds available from 20 November. A big fan of Rieslings and Spanish reds, Hart said: This reflects the fact that the range has been a bit neglected for the past three years. We decided it needed a good shot in the arm to make people realise we're still here. We looked at quality above all, rather than price. We had a huge series of tastings and we went to our suppliers and asked them to send us wines that they wouldn't normally send us. We've got some good stuff from the smaller Spanish regions. We identified that we were underperforming with Australia and Chile and that we were under-represented in southern Rhne and vin de pays.' Hart also conceded that the company has over-relied on branded wines, and while not cutting them out entirely, said Unwins had looked further afield: We've tried to look at things from a different point of view, and go for things that, in the past, wouldn't have have considered Unwins wines.' The team is particularly proud of Marselan, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Grenache hybrid from Languedoc, created in 1961 with the hope of producing a grape with large berries to increase wine production. Fewer than 20ha of Marselan are planted, and Unwins believes it is the only retailer to sell a 100% pure Marselan wine. Marketing director Ian McLernon added: We want to understand what the business is good at and get on and do it. We're a wine retailer and we have to make sure that the wine range is appropriate.'