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Experts: UK is 'still the place to be'

Published:  19 May, 2010

The UK market is still the place to be for global wine producers - despite high duty rates and pricing issues - experts have agreed.

Four speakers from across the wine industry offered their opinion on the state of the nation at a seminar at the London International Wine Fair today, an event organised by Harpers Wine & Spirit.

The seminar tackled the question 'What the UK needs to do to make it a viable market for global wine producers'.

Richard Hitchcock, marketing and operations manager for Leeds-based Bottle Green, said: "The paradigm has shifted in this market, but nonetheless the market remains a very important operation.

"I think the UK has probably got the lowest return in any market for producers, so just surviving is not good enough - we need to add value.

"We see our core role as building brands - producer's brands - without strong producers there is no Bottle Green.

"We will work with the producers for whom we believe there is a long-term future.

"Building brands is a complex model - it's not just about sticking a lable on a bottle.

"Producers need to be clear about why they are coming into the market and they have got to be prepared to be flexible, choose their importer very carefully and be prepared to listen to their advice and act on it."

Rowan Gormley of Naked Wines, which launched in December 2008 and sells 35,000 bottles of wine each week, has turned to the Internet to make the most of offering reduced-priced wine to consumers.

He said: "Selling wine before it is made you incur no selling costs and no storage costs.

"If we can take that chunk out of the production circle we can bring down the cost to the consumer and we can sell more.

"There is opportunity in this market, but it comes down to imagination - if the best idea you have got is three for £10 that is not going to get you anywhere.

"It is the people who are flexible and adapt that will be the winners - the losers will be the ones who have been doing the same thing for the past 20 years."

Neil Bruce, of drinks wholesaler Waverley TBS, said: "We need market-led, market-facing producers.

"It's a bloody big market and it remains a shop window for the world - it's ultimately a strategically important market in the global context.

"Post-recession, the people who have made it should be good people."

Mark Calver, of Hatch Mansfield, said: "If you are a global brand then you need to be here (in the UK)."

Harpers Wine & Spirit Editor Richard Siddle said: "The UK has for many years been the number one place to be, but more and more producers are questioning their role.

"You may have the perfect wine, but if it is not supported by the most cost-effective route (to market) then it is not going to be listed."