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Amathus's inaugural tasting puts spotlight on ambitious plans to double its wine portfolio

Published:  13 September, 2019

Amathus Drinks held its first stand alone tasting of recent times this week to highlight what has been a major push into the wine category for the traditionally spirits-led company over the past few years.

Celebrating 40 years of wholesaling this past year, the company made its name as a spirits distributor importing premium mezcals and piscos from central and South America after growing from a single wine shop in London.

Five retail shops and a growing national distribution network later, Amathus is now investing in growing its stall of wines with the aim of eventually giving them equal billing with spirits in its portfolio.

“The aim was to create a wine list that’s truly international and covers all the main regions, as well as being able to offer something to all our customers – whether that’s a curry house, a neighbourhood bistro or an indie,” explained Jeremy Lithgow MW, who has been overseeing the project over the past two years as the company’s head of wine.

“It started with my predecessor, Sarah Knowles MW, who began importing more wines with exclusive distribution. Now, we work with around 110 suppliers that we import directly. By the year’s end, we will have doubled the range we started with two years ago.”

Over the past year, wine has grown to account for around 20% of turnover, with 80% devoted to “everything else”.

This spans spirits, beers, softs and mixers as the company aims to offer a whole category solution for its customers.

On the wine side, Lithgow has been involved in flushing out all areas of Amathus’s portfolio, from “entry level Prosecco up to a wonderful 1994 Rioja Reserva which we imported directly from the winery and a top Barolo”.

A number of “interesting, niche” picks like Kanpai Sake from Peckham and an "affordable natural" wine from Greece also gathered quite a bit of interest at Wednesday’s tasting.

“Greece has been a big push for us as there’s so much exciting stuff out there. Few people are doing Greece well,” Lithgow added.

The final big push before Christmas will come in the next month or so in the form of a number Portuguese wines which will focus on the value and diversity offered up by the Iberian peninsula.

All of the above marks something of a growth spurt at the company over the past couple of yeras, that can perhaps be traced back to the acquisition of Bablake Wines Ltd from the Wyles Family in the Midlands in 2015.

Two new depots, one in Coventry and one near Bristol, are also part of ambitious plans to extend distribution beyond the company’s London and South East heartland.

“The architecture is there now,” said Lithgow. “Before, wine was just something else we brought in from other importers. Clearly there is an opportunity.”