Indie plugs Californian mid-price gap

A UK independent merchant has seen Californian wine sales soar by “nearly 1,200%” six months after reassessing its listings from the state.

Lodi: a solution for California's mid-price gap in the UK?

Lodi: a solution for California’s mid-price gap in the UK?

Describing the retailer’s previous six-strong Californian portfolio as “lifeless”, Danielle Freer, marketing manager of Northamptonshire-based Amps Fine Wines, revealed that as a result of a trip hosted by the Wine Institute of California last year, the retailer now offers 36 listings with “something for everyone.”

After an initial monthly sales surge from around 88 bottles to 2,500 bottles during a Californian promotion following Freer’s trip, she said that the merchant’s sales from California have now settled at “about 1,000 bottles per month.”

Moreover, Freer stressed that this uplift was not coming at the expense of other regions, noting: “It’s just a straight increase in sales.”

While California’s UK offer is widely viewed as being weakest in middle price brackets, this is precisely where the Amps selection now focuses. “We’re targeting that middle ground – the supermarkets don’t represent these wines,” Freer told the drinks business, as she pointed to an entry point of £6.99 and an average price of £11.99.

Having embarked on the trip with “a completely open mind,” Freer outlined a revamped range that now stretches from “loud and proud Zinfandel” to “more sophisticated Monterey” and “Bordeaux styles from Napa,” adding: “We sell a lot of really good quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”

She highlighted one region as a particularly strong source for the merchant’s price bracket and customer taste preferences. “Lodi offers a little more commercial, fruitier style of wine at accessible prices,” she noted.

However, despite the variety’s popularity in the UK, Freer revealed: “Surprisingly Sauvignon Blanc is where we see the most resistance,” suggesting: “New Zealand has Sauvignon Blanc sewn up.”

Despite the success of these new listings, Freer echoed criticism from other Californian specialists about the limited availability of many wines in this market, especially for merchants too small to import for themselves. “Our biggest problem is getting wines here in the UK for people to buy,” she acknowledged.

With the Wine Institute of California extending its trip programme from four to eight UK independent merchants this year, Freer recommended the initiative, saying: “I’d really urge other independent merchants to get involved.”

A full update on the Californian wine industry and its performance in the UK will appear in the drinks business California Report 2013, which is due out with the May issue.

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