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LWF: Carson Calling

Published:  06 May, 2016

The official launch of Carson Wines at the London Wine Fair saw the roll out of new additions to Christopher Carson's growing agency business

Christopher Carson and son Jonathon used LWF as the platform to unveil the latest additions to the recently formed Carson Wines agency business, which is focused on working as an integral UK extension of the independent and family-owned wineries in its portfolio.

Carson senior, whose past accolades include growing Hardy's to a market leading wine brand, bills his company as "an in market manager" for the producers that Carson Wines works with, arguing that the old agency and distribution model is outmoded in today's ever more competitive and crowded environment.

"As in-market managers we work as the sales and marketing satellite for a handpicked selection of producers, working as an extension to their businesses," said Carson in his launch presentation.

To achieve this, the aim is for Carson Wines to work with no more than around 25 producers, limiting the portfolio to ensure that each producer's brand can be built in a sustainable way without crowding out in a larger portfolio and to do this with clear channel differentiation in terms of where the wines are positioned.

Heading up the sales side, Ranulf Sessions, who recently came on board from Treasury Wine Estate's fine wine division, explained the rationale.

"We don't want the producers we represent to find themselves as one of 100s, we want them to find that they have room around them," he said.

"We are about building premium brands with sustainable value, while retaining the ability, through our small size as a team, to remain nimble, to be able to be quick and react to what our customers want - this is really important in today's market," added Sessions.

"You also have to be completely honest with independents and we are very clear about which wines will feature in which channels, because if you muddy that then the trust is gone."

The portfolio's current strengths are in the New World and Italy, with estates such the James Halliday 'winery of the year' Hentley Farm from Australia, Siegel Family Wines from Colchagua in Chile, Simi from California's Sonoma, Casal Farneto from Marche in Italy and the newly unveiled Soho Wine Co from New Zealand among those offered by Carson Wines.

Sessions described Soho Wine Co as a good representative example of what Carson Wines is looking to present. The producer owns and makes wine from three vineyards in diverse regions across New Zealand, taking in Waiheke Island, Marlborough and Central Otago. But it uses cohesive and catchy Soho branding and presentation across the range, while featuring a famous name such as 'Jagger' Pinot Noir, 'Carter' Chardonnay and 'Valentina' Syrah, offering a mix of suggested style guide and recognition for the consumer.