Top 10 influential wine consultants10th December, 2013 by Gabriel Savage
A little mentioned but increasingly influential face of consulting is that carried out directly by many of the major retailers.
With the expanding shelf space given, in the UK at least, to own label or exclusive label wines, the skillset of many buyers today extends into product development and close collaboration with winemakers to create a wine tailored directly for their specific customer base.
Laithwaites Wine now includes no fewer than three trained winemakers on its buying team, which sources wine across the company’s UK, US and Australian operations. “For me it’s all about flexibility,” explains Laithwaites’ wine director Abi Hirshfeld, who confirms that while the majority of the time her team’s winemaking involvement is restricted to blending the “80-90%” of wines which are exclusive to Laithwaites, there is the option to extend this right back to vineyard parcel selection.
“For me it’s about where we can add value,” she outlines. “If a winemaker’s doing a good job then they don’t need us to do that, but we can maybe help them with bottling.” Even where the intervention required is minimal, Hirshfeld stresses the value of a team that is able to straddle the commercial and production elements of the wine business so effectively. “It really enables us to deliver wines that we know our customers will love,” she sums up.