Chris Mercer

Indian summer wine in the UK

By: Chris Mercer - 20 September 2011 12:29

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Say what you like about the UK wine market, but how many other countries would slug back obscure wines from vineyard regions that they've never heard of?

This month, upmarket retailer Waitrose began selling Indian wine, believed to be the first multiple retailer to do so in the UK. By the end of last weekend, stocks were seriously depleted. Drinkers stampeded through the wine aisles, carrying off as much Zampa Syrah and Ritu Viogner as possible in expensive off-road vehicles, back to their suburban lairs.

Waitrose has conceded that it is surprised by shoppers' thirst for wine from a country more readily associated with curry and Cobra lager. 

But, isn't this sense of adventure precisely what helps the UK to retain its 'pull factor' in the world of wine? On paper, there are good reasons to go elsewhere. Tax amounts to half the cost of a GBP5 bottle of wine in the UK, the national economy is goosed, the exchange rate is bonkers and overall consumption of wine is predicted to continue falling, at least for the near-term.

And yet, without wishing to hoist the Union Jack and direct a patriotic two-finger salute at this cocktail of woe, it does seem that producers around the world continue to be drawn to UK drinkers' gung-ho, try-anything-once attitude. 

Of course, what really matters is how many people go back for more. Waitrose and Zamba producer UB Group would do well to keep a lid on things until the figures from repeat purchases are in. Adventurism is the cousin of frivolity.  

The next problem is building enough scale to achieve some sort of profit; an issue that even the biggest wine sellers in the UK are grappling with. 

Still, it's hard to do anything without open-minded consumers.

 

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