Connoisseur sees opportunities in thriving indie sector

Connoisseur Estates is buoyant about the future of the UK independent trade after sensing a serious willingness to find quality among buyers at the London Wine Fair.

The supplier had a number of winemakers from across the world pouring new releases from its portfolio, which includes brands from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and England.

Director Andrew Steel told DRN: “The fair was brilliant. The people coming through the door were the right people and they were spending the right kind of time with us. It was mainly independents, but also some good regional and national wholesalers.

“It seems that people are interested now in quality now and buying less but better. Chile at £5 is not of interest, but Chile at £10-12 is of interest. Wines with a bit more character, depth of flavour. There is still a requirement to sell Prosecco at the bottom end, but there seems to be a serious willingness to find better quality and something new.

“There cannot be price stagnation. People are getting price increases in other sectors.

When people start offering deals like Prosecco at £20 a case, that barely covers the tax, it’s not good for anyone. The public have to understand they can’t get the wines they have been getting at the prices they have been getting, because the two biggest suppliers [Palmer & Harvey and Conviviality] have gone bust.

“There’s a realisation that you have got to say no to certain business. No one has been sheltered from the problems of the last two years. But it has got to change and we are nicely positioned to move forward with it. We are a small company, but we are getting some very good distribution.”

Highlights on the Connoisseur stand included an Albarino from New Zealand, stocked at retailers like Corks Out, and a Languedoc rosé called Elle & Lui, presented in a stylish bottle.

“Rosé is still very important,” said Steel. “People don’t just want good packaging now. It has to be something good to drink.

“People used to buy as cheap as possible from the south of France, but now they are prepared to pay more for wines of character. In retail, £12-20 seems to be a hotspot.

“The reaction from everyone to Albarino from New Zealand has been great. Galicia has a lovely crispness and cleanness. Albarino from New Zealand has a round and tropical flavour. It has a point of difference.”

In possibly our favourite quote of the fair, he went on to say: “Volcanic soil is really hot at the moment.”

Connoisseur distributes Bodega de Volcanoes de Chile, which comprises Sauvignon Blancs, Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and a red blend described as “Rhône on steroids”.

“It showcases what the right volcanic soil can give you,” said Steel. “Everyone has always talked about Mount Etna, but Chile has something like 2,000 volcanoes.”

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