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Italian fizz continues to bubble at Buckingham Schenk

Published:  08 February, 2017

Wine importer Buckingham Schenk is celebrating a 19% increase in annual turnover thanks to the indomitable UK favourites of Argentinian Malbec and Italian sparkling.

In their end of year results released today, the importer and brand owner reported sales of 4.9m Prosecco bottles in 2016 - a 22% increase on the previous year.

The wider sparkling category also drove growth, particularly Italian Spumante, through its group ownership with Schenk Italian Wineries and also Malbec.

Volume sales of premium Argentine wines rose by 35% on 2015, led by its partnership with Viñalba, which sold one million bottles in 2016.

While the company significantly increased its wine list offering last year, managing director Craig Durham attributes the growth to the consolidation rather than broadening of the category.

"Consumers love Malbec and Prosecco, so it was really about focusing on the category and making sure our range was up to date an refreshed. Also we put a lot of marketing support into Viñalba," he said.

As well as an importer, Buckingham Schenk is also a brand owner, working with a number of producers from across their core regions in Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and Chile.

They have been working with Viñalba and supplier Bodegas Fabre for the past ten years - a 'natural progression' which led to last year's marketing drive and a subsequent spike in volume sales.

As well focusing on its leading categories, the past few years have marked a change of strategy for Buckingham Schenk.

Historically a source for the off-trade, the company started supplying the on-trade three years ago, and followed this up last year by expanding their wine list from 90 to 139 wines with additions from Chile, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.

"For us, it's about leading with the strength of the product. From there, why not sell to a different channel? But you have to make sure that your offering is tailored. One size does not fit all," Durham explained.

While the uncertainty surrounding Brexit - rather than the actual event of leaving of EU - continues to cast a cloud, the other challenge Durham highlights is the increasing consolidation of the off-trade with the growth of conglomerates like Conviviality.

He said: "The other big factor is the number of wines making it to the UK. We're a wine producer as well as being an importer and an agency, which means we are more secure.

"It's a natural progression. As people streamline, jobs, sectors and the pool of wine will get smaller. But there's still a lot of exciting wines out there. I'm constantly looking with my team at the future and saying 'what's next?'"