Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Buyers hunt for mainstream alternatives at SITT

Published:  01 March, 2018

Snow may have ground most of the UK to a halt, but the even frostier conditions of the market at the moment meant that buyers braved the weather and headed to Harpers’ Spring SITT event to discover point of difference wines at competitive prices.

Yesterday’s London edition of our Specialists Importers Trade Tasting (SITT) revealed that buyers are having to work extra hard at the moment to find alternatives to mainstream wines which are increasingly buckling under price pressures.

In the case of independent Brighton merchant Ten Green Bottles, things have changed drastically since opening ten years ago, when selling organic wine from small producers was a niche.

Now that consumers are being priced out of their favourite wines, director Simon Broad said: “Service has to be the point of difference for merchants, and part of that is finding smaller suppliers who perhaps don’t have the same overheads as big companies and who are coming in with interesting wines at good prices.

“SITT is good in that way because we’re having to put a bit more effort to find younger, interesting suppliers who are able to undercut the more established ones. Quality wines that we used to bring in five years ago are now too expensive.”

For Ten Green Bottles and Devon’s The Jolly Vintner, Portugal and Eastern Europe are increasingly becoming go-to places for such wines.

“Portugal does particularly good whites, which are serious alternatives to Grand Cru Chablis,” said Broad.

“As a wine-producing country, its styles aren’t particularly consumer friendly but that means winemakers have to work bit harder on approachability. The result is great blends and distinctive wines that are still approachable and at good prices.”

Gemma Welden, owner of the Jolly Green Vintners, concurred that key challenges for her Devon-based retail and local wholesale business include finding cost effective alternatives to established regions like Burgundy and Rioja.

Portugal and alternative Spainish regions like Navarra for whites and Provence red, which use “really unusual Basque varietals” were notable mentions.

“It’s much easier to bring in something new that’s a little bit more expensive that customers will take at face value, rather than putting up existing lines,” Welden shared.

“Selling something new is always going to be a harder sell, but education is key. Condor Wines do some amazing Uruguay – and you can imagine that not many people in Devon know much about Uruguayan wine. But it went down like a house on fire at our in-store tasting.”

She also praised suppliers for being adaptable and recognising issues merchants are facing in terms of price.

“I noticed quite a few of the suppliers at SITT do a pallet rate,” she said. “I’m thinking about getting some extra storage to be able to hold stock, so it’s good that suppliers are recognising that and it means we can still get something great on shelf for between £7 and £7.50.

“But as a trade, we need to work harder to get consumers to trade up. Our costs are going up and spending power is down, so it’s up to us to make sure those customers who are buying less are spending more on a good bottle. If it becomes a one-off on a Friday night rather than throughout the week, then customers should be spending £10 rather than £8 and getting good value for money.”