wine trade

Celebrating our first Birthday!

What a year it has been. 2016 has proven to be a year that the world will never forget. Whether due to social, political or economic factors, we are yet to see the true effects on the wine industry. Price lists are already beginning to be adjusted and some producers are becoming nervous.

In our small corner of the world, one thing we can definitely celebrate is our first Birthday! We are incredibly proud and humbled to have received such industry support and hope that we can continue to make a positive contribution to the trade.

We are still finding out what works for the group and we’ll be sure to keep building on what we have learned over the last 12 months. Our aim has always been to help foster better relationships and enhance industry knowledge. We will continue to have this at the forefront of our minds, in everything we do, for 2017.

At each event it is clear that we are slowly but surely filling a gap that has long needed to be filled. The chance to meet peers and learn about the industry we work in from other women in the group has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring for many, ourselves included.

Professional Networking Without the Awkwardness

The word ‘networking’ often makes us cringe and in itself, is an activity that the majority of people find hard. It brings to mind cheesy slogans and awkward half-full rooms of people exchanging business cards. We set out to ensure that our events were professional, social and informative and we always tried our up-most to remove the cringe-factor. #ick

All those who have been to an event this year took a chance on something new. We especially want to thank those women who came to an event on their own, you are who we aspire to be! And to those of you who brought along a colleague or forwarded an invite to a friend in the industry, without you, the group wouldn’t have grown the way it has. A huge thank you to all for making this year a great success. 

Spotlight on: Wine buying across the industry - "Never a dull moment"

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The Women in Wine LDN group met at Liberty Wines October 19th, where we held a panel discussion on wine buying. We had an amazing set of panellists who talked about different aspects of the role of being a wine buyer as well as the challenges they face across different sectors of the trade:

Photo courtesy of  Clara Rubin ,   National Training Manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars   From left: Hannah van Susteren or Atlas Fine Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Regine Lee of Liberty Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Emma Dawson of Marks and Spencer, Beth Brickenden of London Union, Jennifer Doherty of Liberty Wines and Vicky Stevens-Clarkson of Atlas Fine Wines. 

Photo courtesy of Clara RubinNational Training Manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars

From left: Hannah van Susteren or Atlas Fine Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Regine Lee of Liberty Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Emma Dawson of Marks and Spencer, Beth Brickenden of London Union, Jennifer Doherty of Liberty Wines and Vicky Stevens-Clarkson of Atlas Fine Wines. 

When asked about what wine buying entailed, several common themes emerged from all the panellists. They work closely with their counterparts in forecasting and sales to source the right wine that will not only work from a price point of view, but will also give the consumers value, or as Vicki put it aptly, “relevancy to their lives”. Buyers are no longer bringing in wine and relying on consumers to just accept their selling points, instead they are focused on what consumers want from the product. Another similarity is their heavy involvement in forecasting and quality control. On top of this, they firefight supply chain problems and currency fluctuations; juggle the constant priorities of working with stores, consumers and dealing with producers, as well as the added pressure to be on top of market trends. 

Emma discussed the approach that Marks & Spencer has in creating their range; 

“If we are doing the same thing as all the other supermarket retailers, there would be no point in us existing. We need to go above and beyond and offering customers something that much more special and exiting. I like being a maverick sometimes.”

She then spoke about how she sources wine from far flung places like Japan and Brazil, finding the 'sweet spot' when tapping into consumers’ interest in taking a punt on something new and carefully balancing the right price and intrigue to get the sale. 

Jennifer provided some key insights in to building Liberty Wines’ range, with their ultimate goal being to bring the best producers from a region on-board. She highlighted the ethos of the teams is to find wines that the sales team are also passionate about - inspiring them to connect new wines with their customers. The importance of quality control was discussed a great deal. It was clear from the discussion that buyers are not only accountable to the bottom line, but also to the consumers who need to be reassured that they will get a product that is not faulty and can be consistently relied upon.

Beth provided insights into the important aspects of buying wine for a pioneering on-trade channel of street food markets.  The varied customers who eat at Street Feast are now people who are extremely knowledgeable about food and want the wines on offer to compliment this style of food.

She highlighted that following the trend of organic and biodynamic wine, people are “now looking for wine from unusual and from non-traditional winemaking countries like Turkey and Lebanon, which is also a reflection on how people are becoming more adventurous with food.” 

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Vicki gave a fantastic overview of buying wine for the fine wine market and its challenges: limited supply, the need to be reactive to consumer trends and demand, stiff competition from UK brokerages and international fine wine marketplaces. She also discussed the need to ensure that in the age of technology and emergence of online competitors such as Vivino, fine wine merchants need to make sure they add value to the consumers’ purchasing experience by providing spot on advisory assistance as well.

The discussion then turned to topical themes and what is making wine buying challenging today. Not surprisingly, Brexit was discussed in detail.

Other very juicy topics in our Q&A covered changing role of the La Place de Bordeaux on international markets, climate change’s impact on vintage variation and the long-term sustainability of winemaking and the competition wine has from craft beer.

It was clear from all of the panellists that in the world of wine buying, relationships are key. The supplier must understand the business and really get your customer for the chain of supply and demand to be successful - whether you are a huge supermarket or a street food specialist. 

All in all, it was a very informative evening with a fantastic group discussion.

Photo courtesy of  Victoria Daska l, Project Manager at World of Fine Wine

Photo courtesy of Victoria Daskal, Project Manager at World of Fine Wine

Special thanks... to Liberty Wines for hosting Women in Wine LDN and to our wonderful panellists. Cheers!

Up Next... We have an events lined up for December and January. Location and further details will follow shortly. 

What are we now...  In just a year we are 160 women strong representing over 50 companies within the industry. Please do extend invitations to your colleagues, contacts and friends; it has been incredible to see this community take shape and we want it to continue to grow. 

Go on and… Chat to us on Twitter.

WSTA Parliamentary Event : Women with Bottle, The women behind the wine & spirit industry

The Women in Wine LDN team attended the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s Parliamentary event which brought together MPs and wine and spirit industry professionals. The theme of the evening was particularly close to our heart, as the focus was "Women in the Wine and Spirits Industry". Among the large crowd there were a number of prominent women in the industry, from educators, consultants, importers, journalists and media personalities and English wine producers. We were incredibly excited to see so many familiar faces of those who are also Women in Wine London panellists and current members.

Tim Loughton MP (East Worthing and Shoreham) gave the introductory speech, as he was the event’s co-host and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Wine & Spirit Group. He talked about the historic and current importance of our industry to the UK economy and of the key role women have played in it. Co-host Flick Drummond MP (Portsmouth South) is Co-Chair for the Women for Work APPG and spoke passionately about her work trying to bring the challenges that women face in the workplace to the forefront, including structural challenges in our current society such as affordable childcare and the difficulties returning to work after maternity leave. 

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the speech of Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, who passed the exam in 1970. She recounted how she first became passionate about wine as a child growing up in Portugal, where she helped to pick grapes for harvest. Determined to join the wine industry, she persevered in landing a job at Ramos Pintos – despite the fact that several other Port houses had bluntly told her that women have no place in the cellar. Her natural talent and hard work resulted in her gaining a scholarship to study winemaking in France, where she did ‘genteel’ tasks like labelling bottles, but also allowed her to eventually work in Germany where she got hands-on winemaking experience mentored by a woman winemaker. There, Sarah spent two months in the thick of it; getting her hands dirty and scrubbing vats which, in hindsight, was an auspicious start to a winemaking career spanning Jerez to South America.

Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, giving a speech at the WSTA Parliamentary event. The crowd hung on to every word. 

Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, giving a speech at the WSTA Parliamentary event. The crowd hung on to every word. 

Sarah gained her MW title six years before the second female to do so (the equally indomitable Serena Sutcliffe), which illustrates the male-dominated bent of the wine industry forty years ago. She continued to burst through glass ceilings as she steered her career towards  technical analysis with a Bermondsey Street-based bottling plant where she rose up to become a technical manager and then as the first female buyer at a Yorkshire-based brewery. She also eventually became Asda first beer/cider/spirits/wine controller working with very good quality, every day drinking wine – a pursuit which she says was, in many ways, even more difficult than making boutique fine wine. 

It was an inspiring and empowering speech, culminating in the advice she once received from Madame Lilly Bollinger many years ago. Mme Bollinger, who was then in her 90s and still cycling vigorously around her vineyards, stopped to chat to Sarah and told her the secret of her own success: "My dear, never try to emulate a man. Always remain feminine". As Sarah noted, many of the women in that very room at Parliament – without any prompting or ceremony – had done exactly that and have been very successful. 

Miles Beale CEO of WSTA, Flick Drummond MP, Sarah Morphew Stephen MW and Tim Loughton MP. Photo courtesy of WSTA via Twitter @WSTAUK

Miles Beale CEO of WSTA, Flick Drummond MP, Sarah Morphew Stephen MW and Tim Loughton MP. Photo courtesy of WSTA via Twitter @WSTAUK

Special thanks... to Rebekah Kendrick, WSTA’s Parliamentary Affairs Manager, for the invite and for creating such a great event. Reflecting on the evening, Rebekah said,

“There are so many inspiring women in wine and spirits and this event was the perfect way to bring the industry together with Members of Parliament, to celebrate the incredible achievements that female distillers, winemakers, CEOs and MWs have made and are still making today. Working with the Women and Work APPG, as well as the Wine and Spirit APPG, really did show the support Parliament does have for women in business, and we look forward to their continued support.”