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Product, price, place and promotion: the four Ps of marketing. It may be corporate jargon, but it works. Sadly, promotion and price are all too often considered one and the same thing within wine retail.

Every September, as millions of children return to school, so the wine trade sharpens its pencils and girds its liver in readiness for the new term. Here are five ways to make the most of it.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t believe everything you read, don’t follow the crowd.

Everyone’s got a story about working with the boss from hell. The manager who barks insults at the team whenever anything goes wrong – not the most helpful or constructive method of problem solving – or the maverick injecting his personality into the business, who turns out to be more sociopath than innovative thinker.

Where does the line between the personal responsibility of adults and the role of government lie? This question has exercised the minds of our industry leaders for many years.

few months ago I was tasting with an excellent cava producer – and no, that’s not an oxymoron.

What can go wrong?’ asked the headline in The Sun just before the first England match – as the newspaper sent free copies of its appallingly jingoistic This Is Our England special edition to 22 million homes. What could go wrong? Well, we could lose our first two matches, that’s what.

Beer has been given many affectionate nicknames over the years – liquid courage, daddy’s medicine, proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy, and countless others. But “yeast excrement” was a new one on me. That is how Alex Barlow, training director at the Beer academy, described the tipple to 10 MPs at a masterclass he hosted at the red lion opposite the houses of Parliament this week.

Discounting is routinely cited as the scourge of wine retail in the UK. 

When I worked at Majestic, a rumour circulated that a plucky manager once led a strike by standing on the roof of the Shepherd’s Bush store and shouting slogans through a loudhailer. Apparently, that story is still going – and someone recently told me they’d heard the protagonist was me.

Did you make the sale?

30 May, 2014

My first sales director always asked me this critical question. Never was the question more appropriate than with trade shows.

Wine has managed to evolve thus far without the emergence of a global brand leader. it’s unusual in this respect, since widely distributed products tend to favour a dominant player. Coca- Cola, Levi’s, Ford, Apple: all of them are evolutionarily logical – inevitable, even.

There’s been a lot of soul searching about the purpose of Bordeaux en primeur recently. Twitter has been bedevilled with chin-stroking platitudes from merchants and bitchy one-upmanship between wine writers. Debate has raged and disagreement is rife – though miraculously, the world has somehow managed to keep turning.

Yet again consumer complaints have led to a beer brand being required to change its ads because the industry-funded Advertising Standards Authority has judged them to be misleading. The latest TV ads for Kronenbourg challenge the consumer to “find a better tasting French beer” – yet it is brewed in Manchester.

In 2007, a voluntary agreement was made between the government and the drinks industry to ensure that 80% of all alcohol packaging in the UK would carry a warning label by December 2013. Consisting of information about units, consumption guidelines and risks to health, it’s part of a wider effort to increase awareness about responsible drinking.

asked a winemaker recently why it was so important for him to sell his wines in the UK. He said it was like New York, New York: if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

Portugal, our oldest trading partner, has everything a holiday-maker could want - beautiful countryside, massive empty golden beaches, Moorish castles and an astonishing seafaring legacy. Yet the country is in a mess. During a recent visit I started wondering what comparisons can be drawn between the UK and our former close ally.

Off Licence News has followed the steady rise of the so-called Reducing the Strength schemes since the idea was first mooted and Ipswich council gained the dubious crown of being the pioneer.

If wine retail is anything like it was when I did it 10 years ago, then the fastest moving drink in the shop is, in fact, tea. A nice cuppa accompanied everything: opening up, cashing up, mopping up smashed bottles of wine – and sitting down to read OLN, of course.

Indulge me for a moment. So, our private plane touched down at the luxurious estate of one of Argentina’s richest families. That night, while their team of chefs prepared a sumptuous supper, I was invited to take my pick from a cellar stacked full of first growths and deluxe Champagnes.

Why brand names are key

14 February, 2014

Marketing folk spend their lives trying to build brands. Brands that can establish reputations with consumers are of great value to their shareholders.

It seems a bit rich describing wine as democratised when in politics the concept of one person, one vote is something for which people are prepared to die.

Let’s face it, for all its organoleptic pleasures there is a potential dark side to the effects of alcohol which society has seen fit to mitigate by imposing certain restrictions on its sale.

This year, for the first time ever, I’ve managed to keep a new year’s resolution. They’re usually doomed to fail. Call Mum once a week. Call Mum once a month. Call Mum, like, once. But in 2013, I resolved not to buy any wine from supermarkets.

Even before its future plans were revealed to us exclusively this week, Oddbins’ story had become stranger than fiction.

The wine trade is frequently accused of offering the best career in the world. Because the grass is always greener on the other side, the best career in the world is usually anything that isn’t your own.

It is always interesting when industry competitors come together to fight a common enemy. The latest such venture is the recently launched Let There Be Beer campaign.

What’s the point of wine? If you’re Catholic wine is for communion but for some Muslims it’s for infidels. For collectors wine is self-fulfilment, but for alcoholics it’s self-destruction. For some, wine is for quiet contemplation, for others it’s for spraying over people in nightclubs to show you’re classy.

It is hard not to imagine yourself as a film star when you enter BAFTA’s plush headquarters in London’s Piccadilly and tread the same carpet such distinguished thespians as Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis and Helen Mirren have previously graced. A place that celebrates the finest achievements in acting is a fitting setting for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s annual conference.

Age concern in the vineyards

07 October, 2013

“A vineyard planted at the gates of hell”, doesn’t sound like the most promising source of fine wine. You’d expect it to make a pruney, full-bodied red or a fiery fortified at best. But the 1.4 hectares of field-blended Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Muscat and Palomino that grower Dirk Brand cultivates on his wheat and rooibos tea farm near Elands Bay on South Africa’s West Coast produces one of the Cape’s most refined and minerally whites instead.