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Moreno Wines look to widen its range and offer more merchant exclusives

Published:  10 December, 2013

Moreno Wines, that has built its reputation on its Spanish wine portfolio, is looking to widen its appeal to the independent on and off-trades by sourcing more wines from other countries, particularly Italy.

The business, which was first started by Juan and Salome Moreno in 1972, has been supplying the UK restaurant and retail trade for over 30 years, is now headed up by their grandchildren, Abbi and Marcel, who took over last year from their father, Manuel, who helped establish it as an agency business from the mid-80s.

Abbi is only too aware that they cannot rely on the good will of long standing customers  for future trade and that they need to stamp their own personality on the business.

"There are now so many companies, for example, that are looking at working with Spanish wine and we can't just rely on being there first," she stressed.

She confirmed it did hold talks with Robin Copestick of Copestick Murray, who first started his career with Moreno Wines, about taking a stake in the business, but in the end felt it was best to keep their own family independence. "We wanted to keep that identity that my father had built up," she said.

It is working hard on sourcing the same kind of interesting, esoteric wines from Italy that it has from Spain. "We want to concentrate on finding small, family, independent wineries. We do not want to get away from our roots," she added.

"We still pride ourselves on the fact that we have one of the best Spanish wine portfolios, but we also want to build our reputation for other countries as well, like Italy."

Overall 70% of its business still rests with its strong Spanish range, but 25% of its turnover is now coming from Italy, with 5% split between wines it takes from other countries including Chile, Argentina and France, particularly  Bordeaux.

It was pleasing, she said, that it was now having Italian producers come to Moreno and was having some good success with Sicilian and Veneto wines in particular, and unusual wines like Riesling from Piedmonte .  "It is a case of word of mouth," she added.

But its roots remain in Spain where , she said, it has been fascinating to see the country grow to a point where now you can now find quality wine from all areas of Spain and "not just Rioja" like it was years ago.

It is, for example, working with ex-Plumpton College graduate, Harry Hunt, and his new project, Bodegas Thierra Hermosa, producing high altitude wines in Andalucia, southern Spain.

"Spain has so much to offer. Its terrain is so different from north to south and even within separate regions it can vary enormously with individual micro climates. Consumers want to know more about Spain and are looking for different things. The food culture and growth in tapas style eating has really helped with that as well," she explained.

But equally, she conceded, a number of Spanish wineries were now struggling as they can no longer rely on domestic consumption and do not always have the quality of wines suitable for export.

She said its future remains in building its strong independent merchant business and developing its burgeoning restaurant network.  "We have only really been in the London on-trade for the last six years."

It will, she said, concentrate only on the London on-trade as it wants to give independent merchants exclusivity for its wines elsewhere in the country. But will deal with one-offs like the recent listings it has established in the Fat Duck in Berkshire and the Walnut Tree in Wales.

It continues to run its own independent wine retail store in Maida Vale which it has had since it first started in 1972.