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Ex-Ehrmanns directors form new wine distribution company

Published:  09 September, 2014

Three high profile UK wine professionals, including two former Ehrmanns directors, have launched their own distribution company in partnership with three wineries, including De Bortoli wines, which is closing its UK office as a result.

North South Wines is part owned by Italian wine outfit The Wine People, New Zealand's Waimea Family Estate Wines and Australia's De Bortoli wineries.  It is led by Kim Wilson, former sales director at Ehrmanns and Joy Edmondson, ex-Ehrmanns buying director, who both departed the agency  in February 2014, and former Nyetimber and Liberty Wines finance head, Hamish Gillespie. 

The newly-formed company will also act as UK agent for an additional 16 wineries, all of which are family-owned, from in France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. The new set-up means De Bortoli will be closing its UK office over the coming months.

North South Wines says its aim is "to provide a balance between direct supply and agency business to ensure that it is efficient and sustainable in today's evolving wine market".

Wilson, NSW's commercial director, said: "The UK route to market has gone through considerable change in recent years and this is likely to continue. Customers are looking for increased flexibility from UK agents; they want a direct sourcing approach or access to competitively priced UK stock that is packed in the UK or imported. North South Wines has been set up in response to this. We offer our customers a broad and interesting portfolio balanced between direct supply and agency business."

North South Wines will supply wines from 19 wineries to all trade channels.

Taking an equity stake in North South Wines has meant a significant revision of its UK strategy for De Bortoli. Victor De Bortoli, export director, said: "The long term development of the UK market is a major business priority for De Bortoli and our partnership with NSW allows us to focus our energies in a more effective way. The De Bortoli UK team has played a significant part in growing the De Bortoli brand and we are very grateful for the contribution that they have made." It is not yet known if any jobs will be lost with the closure of De Bortoli's office.

The Wine People's Stefano Girelli said his firm is "a forward-thinking company and we are excited to be part of a new model which addresses many of the challenges of working in this fast paced market".

Waimea's general manager, Ben Bolitho, said: "The UK represents by far the largest proportion of our sales and there has always been an element of uncertainty in that fine line relationship between an importer and a supplier - given that they are approached by new suppliers almost every week. In our eyes the best way to really secure a robust multi channelled importer and build your brand for the long-term is to invest in their company and grow together."

The west-London based North South Wines began trading on April 1, taking its first orders at the beginning of May.

The firm will also be representing former Ehrmanns client Luis Felipe Edwards as well as Francois Lurton from France, Spain and Argentina.