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Bouncing Back Q&A: Ted Sandbach, Oxford Wine Company

Published:  12 August, 2021

It’s been a one-of-a-kind 18 months for the trade. Here, as we begin to push into the second half of the second year of the pandemic, Harpers is catching up with businesses to find out how they’re focusing on recovering from the shock, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

We continue our series with views from Ted Sandbach, owner and chairman, Oxford Wine Company.

How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

Almost entirely back to normal although as yet, customer tastings and events will not start until September.

What are your priorities and predictions for the second half of 2021?

Complete the new website and keep developing the mail order business which served us so well during the pandemic. There will be a strong emphasis on local business support, evidence of which we are already seeing.

What kind of Christmas are you anticipating and how are you prepping?

We are well established and with another new shop in Oxford, we expect to be very busy. We have upped the staff training and have colossal knowledge and experience with eight diploma holders and an MW student as well as our new Oxford Wine School which now had a dedicated site, the Jericho Wine Rooms, which we have just converted. All this encourages and develops customer involvement which will pay handsome dividends at busy times such as Christmas.

Do you anticipate making a full recovery from the pandemic? What timeframes are realistic?

We have just had our best month ever outside December so I feel we must have already recovered! The challenge is maintaining this and the signs are very encouraging.

How heavily have you been impacted by staffing issues?

Hardly at all. We furloughed a few staff during the pandemic but kept on all retail staff and drivers. We have made two new appointments and the team is stronger than ever. We are very bullish about the future.

Are you anticipating more Covid-related restrictions?

No. We had very few really to deal with. Just safety in the shops and we will shortly restart events and tastings. The supply chain has been the biggest challenge and shipments seem to go missing for long periods. Our customers (both retail and wholesale) are very understanding of the situation.

How have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

Drink better, take advice and experiment more often has been the main theme. There has been strong customer engagement and hopefully plenty of confidence building.

Lastly, if you could make one change in government tomorrow, what would you choose?

Promote Dishy Rishi to PM. He has been a godsend for the wine industry and I applaud his clear thinking. Inevitably some have suffered and others have abused the schemes but on the whole his initiatives have been a great success. Now just the paperwork issues as a result of Brexit to solve!

Quick-fire questions:

France, Spain or Italy? 


USA or OZ?


Port or Sherry?


English bubbles or Champagne? 


Go-to drink to watch with the Olympics / tennis / football?  

A non-oaked pure Chardonnay or a triple gin