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Looking ahead: Doug Wregg, Les Cave de Pyrene

Published:  04 September, 2019

As the first half of 2019 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Doug Wregg, sales and marketing director, Les Cave de Pyrene

How has the first half of 2019 been when compared to the same period in 2018?

We've seen a small increase in sales in terms of value in virtually every month.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in the first six months of 2019?

The Real Wine Fair in May 2019 and the Real Wine Month (a promotion of natural wine) saw a record number of growers, attendees and participants. The feelgood factor surrounding this event was the high of the year.

The low was seeing decent operators having to close their establishments because of increasingly unsustainable costs, particularly in regard to rent and rates. The on-trade has been really squeezed in the last 12 months.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade?

For us, finding great quality good value wines. The pressure on prices has been severe with several below-average vintages in the last five years, and we are continually having to refresh our offering at the lower and middle end to remain competitive. On the other side, I expect a recession in the on-trade.

Will you be preparing in any way for a second potential ‘no deal’ or some deal Brexit day on 31 October and, if so, how?

I think we are already seeing the effects in terms of the volatility of the markets. If the pound continues to plummet we may well have to bring out a second list this year to reflect the pressure on prices. As for stocking up we may marginally adjust stock and allow for longer lead times, but we would prefer not to over-react and tie up too much money in unsold stock.

Taking current trading conditions into account, what’s your strategy for meeting those challenges during the second half of the year, leading up to the crucial Christmas trading period?

We have an early autumn trade tasting to activate interest and will be doing lots of small events. This is the time of year we try to sell small parcels of rare/unusual and more expensive wines into the trade. So, the strategy is lots of tastings and lots of pr and social media around the new wines arriving.

What will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio and why?

As per above we will holding an autumn trade tasting featuring wines by style rather than region. We will also be doing mini tastings, focusing on specific regions or a single grower. Our list is always changing - some wines are delisted, new growers and agencies come on board. Most recently, we have added a couple of estates from Calabria (our first from this region) and a natural wine project from Puglia.

For you, what are the most significant emerging trends in the drinks world?

I would say natural wine, wouldn't I?! The vast majority of leads that we receive are from restaurants and retailers who would like to have a natural wine focus in their selection.

We also think that key kegs are becoming more commonplace and have invested in them a lot.

What innovations in the drinks world do you believe will have the most impact going forward?

I'm not sure. I rather think that the majority of innovations are reactions or reinventions. The companies that will do best in a difficult climate will observe good practices in terms of service, efficiency, but also treat their employees well and foster a real team spirit. Giving, gaining and keeping respect are worth all the innovations that a small wine company can muster.