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Looking ahead: Miles McInnes, Jascots Wine Merchants

Published:  29 December, 2018

Once again we are catching up with the trade over the next few weeks to find out how businesses are making the most of the all-important Christmas trading period, while also looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities 2019 will bring.

Our series continues with insights from Miles McInnes, managing partner at Jascots Wine Merchants.

Would you say that the trade is in a stronger or weaker place now than at the same time last year, and why?

Weaker, I’m sorry to say. For an industry that imports 55% of its product from the EU, the chaotic implementation of Brexit is calamitous. Across the industry, companies like ours are preoccupied with planning for no deal and diverted from advancing the careers of its people and the interests of its customers. Moreover I’m sure we are not the only wine company to be extremely disappointed with yet another rise in duty. It’s a particular shame in the context of the most vibrant wine scene in history with an ever widening demographic of customers enjoying amazing quality wines of more varied styles and origins than ever before.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in 2018?

The highest high has been the evolution of our amazing team, it has been extremely rewarding to see the progress made by our colleagues and to welcome some extremely talented new people. I’ll always remember 2018 as a transformative year for our range as well. We’ve brought some of the most delicious wines I’ve ever tasted from new producers and long-standing partners into our portfolio.

The reception from our customers has been amazing and we have loved sharing the success with our growers. In terms of lows, it’s sad to see the industry struggle. The Conviviality collapse ought to provide a salutary lesson, but there are signs that some aren’t interested in learning it.

What were the most significant trends in the drinks world that occurred in 2018?

Demand for organic wines gained even more momentum, our sales of organic and biodynamic wines grew by more than 130% over the year and there’s no sign of the trend slowing. I can foresee a time in the not too distant future when, by number of listings if not volume of sales, organic wines are in the majority in London on-trade. When Chateau Latour submits its “Grand Vin” to be certified organic, as they did in November this year, you can tell this is a trend for the long-term.

What drinks trends do you predict will emerge or become more firmly established in 2019?

Alternative packaging is still in its infancy and people are beginning to understand that how wine is stored and transported is the most important choice when it comes to reducing carbon. The demand for wine in cans, kegs and bags in boxes is gathering pace and we’ll see our sales multiply several times over the coming year. Of course many consumers feel that good wine needs to come in a glass bottle with a cork but it isn’t true. In the right environment cans, kegs or bibs are preferable to younger consumers in particular.

What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2019?

The biggest opportunities lie in education. The level of knowledge and skills in wine and wine service in restaurants and retail are still light years behind food. There is huge opportunity for the trade in engaging and upskilling the people who sell and serve wine. Wine training needs to adapt to the rapidly changing range of wines that are on offer in the UK as well as the modern style of service and customer engagement.

What will be the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2019?

Recruiting and retaining talent is going to be the hardest challenge for the industry as a whole, the pressure on margins and the regulatory demands placed upon people in our industry is at risk of driving talented people out of the trade at a time when it should be a more exciting industry than ever before.

Who are the people, companies or sectors to watch in 2019?

Independent retail and those that blend on-trade and off-trade are showing the way when it comes to consumer engagement. Buying wine is most enjoyable and rewarding when you can try before you buy and discover the story behind a wine.

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

A bottle each of André Roger’s Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes, dry Tokaji Harslevelu by Zsirai and Retour Aux Sources Fitou from Mas des Caprices.