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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

The new chief executive of John Armit Wines has criticised the price increases for first growths in the current 2003 Bordeaux en primeur campaign. Ian Ronald, the 37-year-old chief executive (see Ronald joins Armit', Harpers, 28 May), told Harpers: The price expectations have reached staggering levels. I would not have imagined that the prices achieved for the 2000 vintage would have been reached quite so rapidly. I thought that it was unlikely to see the 2000 prices exceeded for seven, eight maybe nine years, but it has happened already. Two or three properties are not doing themselves any favours.' Ronald, who used to be the head of The Wine Society before going off to run the UK arm of an American children's book publisher, also questioned some of the tactics used by the Bordelais to sell the 2003 vintage. It is such a structured market, yet they are using free market techniques, such as auctions, which will prevent others down the chain from making any money. It's not in the long-term interests of anyone.' Asked about what has changed since he was at The Wine Society, Ronald said: Well, the market is still growing, which is a nice surprise. The market landscape beyond the major supermarkets and Majestic - which is a shining example - seems confused. The state of the home distribution market has not improved; it is still as difficult as two years ago. The real issue is finding the quality of home-delivery services that know how to handle wine. The Wine Society solved it with its own fleet of vans but that is an expensive luxury not affordable to everyone.' Ronald also perceives that branded wines have moved on' since he was last in the trade. Consumers have concentrated their demand on brands. Overall I think that is a good thing. It means they have confidence in their product choice from which they can branch out.' As for John Armit Wines, Ronald (who has invested in the company) said that Armit himself is a youthful 65-year-old' and that the business is solid but there are opportunities'. The core of the 15 million business, based first and foremost on personal service, is private clients and the hotel and restaurant trade. Armit also has an agency business which Ronald sees as important but not as servicing the mass market.