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Liberty records double digit growth as new listings unveiled at tasting

Published:  08 September, 2016

Liberty Wines was in upbeat mode at its annual tasting on September 7, showcasing seven new producers and over 40 new wines

The team at Liberty Wines were in upbeat mode at their annual tasting on September 7, showcasing almost 600 wines at the Kia Oval, including seven new producers, and over 40 new wines.

The company has recorded double digit growth, both in terms of volume, and more importantly, value.

"We're happy," said Managing Director David Gleave MW, "but we don't rest on our laurels, and now we need to be hungrier than ever. We need to invest in our customers, and look after them. It's not about the sell-in anymore, now the real job starts for my team, once they have got the listings".

Following the publication of the Liberty On-trade report 2016, in conjunction with CGA Strategy, Gleave and his team are focussed on adding value at every level, but especially in the on-trade, which accounts for over 50% of their business. With the premium on-trade showing extremely healthy growth of 12%, Liberty Wines are channelling investment and energy into training and customer service at every level.

"People are drinking less, wine volumes have gone back to the levels of the 1980s, but value is up; the younger generation are more health conscious, but also more inquisitive, and want to know more, want to experiment, and want to buy great product at good prices," said Gleave.

"It's a tough market out there now, so we need to work closely with our customers to help them grow their business. We don't take anything for granted, we need to provide our customers with the tools and mechanics to sell more, higher quality, higher-priced wine, which is why we are investing so heavily in training and the service element of the business. It's all about doing the small things well".

The new arrivals, on their debut performance, at a packed tasting yesterday, included an Istrian Malvazija from producer Matosevic, a premium, single estate Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro from Villa Cialdini, new signings Bill Downie, Heirloom Vineyards, from Australia, Spanish El Coto, Finca Museum, and also Irish Brewery, Bru Brewery.

In terms of trends, Gleave envisages continued focus on provenance, but also an increased interest in native, indigenous varieties, particularly in Italy and Spain. He views Portugal a still-undiscovered gem, which he and his buying team are exploring, but also sees a strong dynamic in France.

"The European wine-producing countries take provenance to a completely different level." he enthused. In addition, he sees a real focus and opportunity for South Africa.

"The new generation of young South African winemakers are bringing a completely new dimension to the sector. It's full of excitement, verve and energy, and I believe that they have a huge opportunity to develop over the next year," he stated. Liberty have recently taken on boutique producer Tim Martin, who produces only 8000 bottles a year, and Gabrielskloof from Overberg, as well as Crystallum, a small family run winery, based in Walker Bay, run by Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson.

Gleave is in bullish mode about the foreseeable future. "Don't underestimate the UK consumer," he stated.

"Even if times get tighter, there is now an indelible culture of eating out, particularly at the premium casual dining level, which wasn't there a decade ago. But they spend differently, and will do so even more now, given the economic uncertainty. They look for value, but at the quality level. We need to help our customers give their customers a reason to spend more on wine, get the information they need, and help build their confidence. Our focus is to provide a point of difference, both in terms of the wines we offer, but most importantly, in terms of the service, and the customer support that we can supply, be it the creation of an innovative wine list, or bespoke wine training."