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Expert team backs new UK wine company

A team headed by former Ehrmanns and Liberty Wine directors has joined forces with three producers from Italy, Australia and New Zealand to create a new UK specialist wine distributor.

north south winesNorth South Wines started trading on 1 April and, in addition to the portfolios of its three equity partners De Bortoli Wines, Waimea Family Estate Wines and The Wine People, now represents a further 16 family owned wine producers from around the world.

The London-based team is led by commercial director Kim Wilson and brand development director Joy Edmondson, both of whom previously held senior roles at UK importer Ehrmanns, as well as finance and operations director Hamish Gillespie, formerly of Liberty Wine.

With a stated aim “to provide a balance between direct supply and agency business to ensure that it is efficient and sustainable in today’s evolving wine market”, the company works across all channels of the UK trade and promises to help build long term distribution partnerships for its producers.

“The UK route to market has gone through considerable change in recent years and this is likely to continue”, said Wilson. “Customers are looking for increased flexibility from UK agents; they want a direct sourcing approach or access to competitively priced UK stock that is packed in the UK or imported. North South Wines has been set up in response to this. We offer our customers a broad and interesting portfolio balanced between direct supply and agency business.”

Explaining the decision to take an equity stake in the new business, Victor de Bortoli, export director for De Bortoli Wines, remarked: “The long term development of the UK market is a major business priority for De Bortoli and our partnership with NSW allows us to focus our energies in a more effective way.”

As a result of this new partnership, he confirmed that the current De Bortoli UK office will close at the end of September, when all orders will transfer to North South Wines.

Thanking the UK team for their “significant contribution” to the brand’s development in this market, Victor de Bortoli commented: “Decisions such as these are not made lightly but the UK is an evolving market and we needed to respond in a way that would ensure De Bortoli continues to grow and secure its place in this market.”

Meanwhile Stefano Girelli, who set up The Wine People in 2011 after his family business Casa Girelli merged with Trentino co-operative La-Vis, outlined his own reason for taking a stake in this new venture.

“To continue to supply competitively to customers without compromising on quality and service it is inevitable that some producers will look to invest in their own distribution”, he remarked. “The Wine People is a forward thinking company and we are excited to be part of a new model which addresses many of the challenges of working in this fast paced market.”

For Nelson-based Waimea’s general manager Ben Bolitho, who noted that the UK is his biggest customer, “there has always been an element of uncertainty in that fine line relationship between an importer and a supplier – given that they are approached by new suppliers almost every week.”

As a result, he explained: “In our eyes the best way to really secure a robust multi channelled importer and build your brand for the long-term is to invest in their company and grow together.”

Among the other producers currently represented by North South Wines are Chile’s Luis Felipe Edwards; the Argentine, Chilean, French and Spanish portfolio of François Lurton; and Rioja Alta single vineyard specialist Finca La Emperatriz.

Having established its team, portfolio and supply chain set-up, North South Wines now plans to focus on relaunching each of its portfolio brands in the UK over the coming months. The company is also in the process of building a website, which is due to launch fully in early 2015.

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