Lidl has grown its drinks buying team as wine sales outstrip overall company growth.

Beers, wines and spirits head Ben Hulme told OLN the supermarket chain had grown sales by 23% in the UK in the past year – but wine sales were up 38% in the same period.

Hulme has been at Lidl for five years and started out buying drinks alongside sauces, ketchups, condiments, spices and over-the-counter medicines.

He has recently taken on a member of staff to handle the non-alcoholic aspects of the job, and last month appointed another to help him on the drinks side.

Hulme told OLN: “I am trying to grow my team a little bit. Not too much – one of Lidl’s strengths is that we are fairly lightly staffed so we can make decisions quicker. We have a very lean team and quite a flat company structure.”

Lidl is also expanding Hulme’s Wine Cellar concept, which complements the 60-strong fixed wine range with a rotating selection of 36-48 wines chosen on a theme. Instead of four Wine Cellars a year there will now be six.

The wines are parcels ranging from 6,000 bottles to 60,000 bottles across Lidl’s estate.

The current theme is Summer Collection, which will be followed by a French-themed selection and then a Christmas range.

Hulme said: “It’s clear people are really appreciating what we are doing and sales are backing it up. We are starting to become a bit of a destination shop for wine, and what I want to do is keep rewarding people coming into Lidl by giving them

interesting things.” The next French collection

will include lesser-known wines from well-known French regions, such as a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Pinot Noir from Alsace.

At Christmas the store will boost its spirits range with a dedicated bay – something Hulme is pushing to have on a permanent basis.

He is developing a range of whiskies for the Christmas gift market, including a 34-year- old sherry cask finish blended Scotch and a 22-year-old Islay single malt.

The Christmas Wine Cellar is likely to feature several dessert wines, which have been an unexpected success story for Hulme.

He is sourcing a Canadian ice wine and a Hungarian Tokaji for the festive season.