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Morgenrot pushes craft wine agenda

Published:  28 March, 2018

If your image of wine tastings involves white table clothes, red trousers and talk of terroir, then Morgenrot’s latest pop up at Block Bar Brighton broke every preconception going.

The Manchester-based, Spain-centric wholesaler has been on a mission to put the ‘craft’ back into wine, mixing up its growing range of Spanish craft beers and similarly funkily-labelled wines in an approach that could best be described as boundary blurring, pitched as much at a cool and contemporary drinking experience as relaying the quality in the bottle.

As part of deliberate decision to sidestep some of the more traditional trade tastings, the company has eschewed events such as London Wine Fair in favour of small, targeted events, that bring its mix of contemporary wines and beers more directly to the restaurateurs and bar operators that are most likely to engage with a colourful, modern-looking and often highly individual selection of drinks.

“People are looking for something interesting, something different, and they want to feel good about how it looks, whether it is craft beer or wine,” said Sam Houston, Morgenrot’s PR advisor, speaking at the tasting.

Unusually for a merchant, Morgenrot’s commercial director John Critchley holds a firm belief that while the liquid in the bottle must be of impeccable quality and true to its origin, the label and presentation is equally important in terms of drawing customers in, and – importantly – should relay the individual nature of wine.

Moregnrot, with its strong base in more original and craft beers, believes the two should be able to sit alongside each other, offering equal visual appeal to the modern drinker.

Backing up this approach, the tasting led on wines such Txakoli, Godello and a white Rioja made from the obscure Maturana Blanca, with a similarly eclectic range of reds and roses on show, with craft beers sitting cheek-by-jowel with the vino.

Morgenrot brand manager David O’Neill explained that in addition to focussing on the more eclectic, the majority of wines were pitched at the mid-range pricewise, which for the target audience of hipper bars and restaurants is where the interest increasingly lies.

“Of course entry level remains important, but we are pushing the mid-level, craft wines – wines on our trade list between £6 and £10, which is where the wines really show what we have to offer,” said O’Neill.

“We are also looking at bringing in a range of craft gins from Spain at the moment, which, with our strength in Spain, should really compliment what we are doing,” he added.

The approach is delivering success, with a Manzanilla Pasada En Rama, for example, that boasts an eye-catching image-packed label, has helped deliver a 40% upturn in dry sherry sales against the backdrop of a declining market. Off the back of this, O’Neill has plans to expand on listings of other styles of sherry, again with a focus on iconoclastic and eye-catchingly different labelling aimed at the craft beer and artisanal spirit slurping generation.

From this lively tasting in a Kemptown gastro-bar Morgenrot’s message was clear – it’s time to put the craft back into wine. And judging by the gathering of Brighton’s cooler-looking clients, switching between craft beers and wines with ease, prospective buyers in the bar and restaurant world agree.