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

Spotlight on 2020: Doug Wregg, Les Cave de Pyrene

Published:  07 January, 2019

As we prepare for the new decade, Harpers looks back over 2019 and ahead to what the coming year will bring – hopefully full of revived optimism for both politics and the trade.

Here, we continue our winter series of reflections, predictions and views with Doug Wregg, sales and marketing director, Les Cave de Pyrene

1. What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2019?

The Real Wine Fair is always a high for us when it is on – 170 growers, hundreds, thousands of engaged consumers and trade mingling under one roof, 800+ natural wines and a month long promotion throughout the UK and Ireland. And the weather was brilliant. When everything comes together and people are happy (growers and customers). That is the best feeling in the wine trade. Also, after a slow down in 2017, it’s good to have steady growth in sales again.

Lows: the record number of restaurants going under. Some of them deserved to for over-exposing themselves financially and for unrealistic projections of growth (and downright poor quality). But for others, a tale of ludicrously high rent and rate increases making business totally unsustainable. And the government believing that market forces are the answer.

The other thing – not such a low – there are way too many generic tastings and diminishing returns. The calendar is crammed and they are pretty grim affairs, increasingly neglected by sommeliers and wine buyers.

2. What were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2019?

Yet another year of increased demand for organic and natural wines. The on-trade and independent retailers are more interested in provenance now than ever. I noticed that there seemed to be a move back to European wines and away from New World, as well as less emphasis on varietal.

3. What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see?

Remain, remain, remain.

4. What trends do you predict for 2020?

You can never tell. In 2018 we had an incredible summer – we might as well have converted our entire portfolio to rosé for three months. But I expect more of the same: more natural wine, more skin-contact and wines with real flavour. The sweet spot in terms of buying will shift up a notch.

5. What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2020?

The people who are good at what they do will succeed; those who take shortcuts will probably fail. Organic managed growth is the key, not growth for the sake of it.

6. What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

Brexit. It looks likely to be upon us soon, but the uncertainty won’t end there. The main issue for importers for us is currency volatility. If we have a weak pound then prices will go up and if it is a poor vintage then it will be a double whammy. We can't keep negotiating with growers (ie beating them down). It’s not fair on them.

The trade needs to be more environmentally savvy. Each company should do an environmental audit on itself.

7. Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2020?

There is definitely room for a new type of indie retailer, which is not gimmicky. I never pay attention to personalities, but you will hear about Christina Rasmussen and her new company.

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

The Tories not being the governing party after the next general election* and for a loose alliance of other parties to halt the Brexit train.

9. New Year’s resolution?

Finish my third book and do a bit more travelling. For Les Caves, continue to keep it simple and be the best we possibly can.

*[NB: Things didn’t quite work out as Mr Wregg hoped at the election; and he wasn't alone, with the country ending up a lot more blue than many expected. For more views on the Tories' victory, click here.]