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Looking ahead: Gavin Quinney, owner and winemaker, Chateau Bauduc

Published:  29 December, 2017

With the all-important Christmas trading period underway - and hopefully turning passion into profit for the trade - we at Harpers are looking ahead past New Year to see what’s in store for the trade in 2018.

We continue our Q&A series with Bordeaux winemaker and Harpers contributor Gavin Quinney at Chateau Bauduc.

What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2017?

Two high points - one was getting the largest single order we’ve ever had and it was from outside the UK, which gave us some confidence that we haven’t got all our eggs in a Brexit-bound basket. The other was sending an email the other day to 1000 people in the UK who ordered wine from us online in 2017. We’re lucky to enjoy great support from our customers, big or small.

The low point was seeing the damage from the frost of the 27 April, and not just in our vineyard. We lost around half the crop, in keeping with the overall situation for Bordeaux this year. Driving around in the weeks afterwards was quite an eye opener.

What were the most significant things that happened in 2017?

At a local level, the frost on April 27th decimated the 2017 crop in Bordeaux, long before a grape was picked. Production will be down by around 50% from the generous harvest of 2016, and about 40-45% on the 10-year average. The 10-year average is about 700 million bottles per annum, so that’s a lot of wine lost.

In the UK, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is a huge concern. The pound has hovered around €1.13 for much of the year, compared to, say, €1.35-1.40 in the Autumn of 2015.

What trends do you predict for 2018?

On the surface, everything will be fine in the UK but, with March 2019 looming, Brexit is a huge worry. The likelihood of a short transition period might delay what looks like customs chaos but we’re on a tortuous journey. The Irish border question would not have an enormous impact on the flow of wine, for example, but a hard border at the Channel most certainly would. European wine producers might sensibly look to other markets in the short to medium term.

Also, with many regions reporting low stocks of wine initially, we’re seeing prices increase. Good harvests across the board in 2018 would be a boost.

What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2018?

Make hay while the sun shines pre-Brexit. Secure deals for continuity of supply. The UK, and especially London, continues to be attractive for tourists, helped by the pound being low.

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2018?

Fragile consumer confidence and the ineptitude of the Government with their planning for Brexit. For the on-trade, consumer confidence - and finding and keeping good staff given the Brexit vote. In the corporate client sector, few companies with a large presence in the UK will announce publicly that they’re cutting back on investing. With wine seen as a luxury, not a necessity, it’ll be tough.

Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2018?

It’ll be interesting to see which wine critics make their mark this year. Neal Martin has transferred away from Parker’s site, and there are many names and sites jostling for attention and membership fees. I guess it’s the continued evolution from an industry being dominated by one man, Robert Parker, to the influence of the many.

I don’t see many retailers doing anything extraordinary in 2018 (I could be wrong, of course) but the high-end wine club scene in London, like 67 Pall Mall, is an interesting and welcome growth area.

What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

We’re hosting a mix of family and friends, with others coming out for the New Year weekend. Me not ballsing-up the cooking would be a start. I always like to say a prayer to world peace. (Sorry, that’s a line from Groundhog Day.)

New Year's resolution?

To write a book. It’s our 20th harvest next year so it would seem appropriate.