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Importer profile: Red Squirrel

Published:  30 May, 2016

Since 2012, London-based importer Red Squirrel has been focusing on "squirrelling" out new and rare wines to bring to the UK market.

Most recently, they have added what is believed to be the UK's first shipment of wine from the Azores islands in Portugal.

The wines fit the profile for Red Squirrel - who were fixtures at the 2016 LWF's Esoterica segment - made by rugby playing, surfing grower António Maçanita from Alentejo from just 12 hectares of vines.

So how does a small importer make the most out of wines with such unique appeal?

MD Nik Darlington explained that it is vital to create interest by finding the right balance between the supply and the demand.

"The greatest risk is in over-supplying," he said. "You have to go softly softly with these wines, and therefore it's always going to be more expensive to introduce rather than something you expect to sell well and which you can ship in much bigger volume.

"But if it's a wine that people truly haven't come across before - and this being the first shipment of wine from the Azores islands, it's a rare opportunity - then there's an immediate clamour to get a piece of the action.

"And that's what we're seeing, from across the on and off-trades."

Last week, Red Squirrel introduced three wines from the Azores Wine Company, based on the island of Pico.

For an importer that specialises in rare native and alternative grapes, it is business as usual to find unusual wines.

This boutique business model might intimidate some, but Darlington believes that the unique credentials of their wines makes them easier to sell than a lot of mass market.

"Introducing any new wine carries risks, whether it's a white wine from Burgundy or a grape that time forgot from inner Transylvania (even we haven't gone there yet). But I actually think there's often greater risk in importing a wine that's saturated in the market, such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc," he added.

"There's hardly any [of the Azores Wine Company wines] available. All in all, it's about offering something that's very special, very rare, and available for a very short time only."

Red Squirrel has added two 2015 whites, Arinto dos Açores and Verdelho "O Original" as well as a Vulcânico Rosé, also from last year's vintage.