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Spotlight on 2020: Laure Patry, Pollen Street Social Group

Published:  08 January, 2020

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 Laure Patry, group head sommelier, Pollen Street Social Group

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

London has seen a lot of closures in 2019 for a lot of independent owners, includes my project Social wine and Tapas, which was quite sad.

Staff shortage is also becoming more apparent in the UK since the Brexit situation started. Our group is still growing in any case and we just opened the Betterment in the Biltmore Hotel on Grosvenor Square and had a refurb on Little Social now called 5 Social, and we are just about to re-open King Social House in St Moritz this month. Lots more projects coming up so still very exciting times!

What were the most significant trends that occurred in 2019?

Listing of low alcohol beer and the increasing demand for it. Also English Sparkling wine, we see more and more on restaurant lists, as well as Orange wine - even in Michelin restaurants, which didn’t use to be the case.

Eastern European wines have also become more present on wine lists.

What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see from the perspective of business?

No price increase on wine and food coming from Europe, which is probably impossible but we will wait and see. Also to be able to import anything we need from Europe without restrictions and no visa or restriction for any Europeans coming to live and work in the UK, and for all Europeans living in the UK to be given the opportunity to stay.

What trends do you predict for 2020?

I think we are likely to see more wine coming from China. We will also see more recognition for organic, biodynamic and natural wine, and a continued interest in low alcohol beer and wine.

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

It’s a difficult one to answer as the Brexit deals will be crucial for us. English wine will have a big opportunity as we will be looking at what’s available locally and the prices will become competitive. Perhaps New World wine will have an opportunity also.

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

Pricing will be difficult as the cost will increase so we are likely to see restaurants putting up their prices. But until Brexit is done we can't really comment.

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

In terms of large companies I would say Bibendum as its comeback is strong, also Liberty, Corney & Barrow and Les Caves for the on-trade as they are more specialised and they have large portfolios. In retail, Majestic is quite strong and it has good prices.

In terms of importers and local wine shops I like Gergovie Wines and Dynamic Vines, but look out for places like The Sampler and Noble Fine Liquor.

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

To be with family is the perfect Christmas. Lots of food preferably some seafood, Foie Gras, beef or tyurkey for main followed by cheese and Buche de Noel, that’s in case someone invite me one day! And lots of natural wine of course.

New Year's resolution?

Don’t look back only forwards