Copestick Murray looks to entry-level ‘I heart’ generics to mitigate frost price hike

Copestick Murray is planning to launch entry-level generic red and white ‘house’ blends to its ‘I heart wine’ range in anticipation of prices going up for varietal European wines following the late Spring frosts.

Robin Copestick, co-founder and director of Copestick Murray

Speaking to db at the London Wine Fair, Copestick Murray’s founder and managing director Robin Copestick said the company was currently working on the generic blends with a view to launching them on the market in the autumn at around the £5 price mark.

“There has been a lot of frost in Europe and that will put pressure on pricing, so I think something at the entry level would be good. It will ease pressure on the varietal range if the price goes up, and it also give the retailers an opportunity to have something different on shelf,” he told db.

Copestick said that although the company had yet to feel any effect from last year’s Brexit vote, the frost posed a definite problem – although it was not looking to switch sourcing on its varietal wines.

“There’s been a 20-25% drop in volume, and commercially, the next conversation is going to be about the frost,” he said. “There will be a bit less wine, and I’m sure the price will go up. The bulk market has already started to strengthen, even though we are not even close to the 2017 vintage, but people are buying everything now, so prices are hardening, and there is not a great deal of volume out there anyway.”

“The key drivers for the I heart brand are I heart Prosecco and I heart Pinot Grigio, and both were affected by frost,” he added.

Pressure on price is likely to drive prices up, Copestick warned

Late frosts this spring wreaked havoc across Western and Central Europe, hitting vineyards in northern Spain (including Rioja, Bierzo and Galicia), France, particularly in Champagne and Bordeaux, Northern Italy, the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Range expansion

As revealed by db last month, the company has also launched three premium regional-led skus under the flagship brand for the first time, with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Mendoza Malbec and a Berceo Rioja.

Copestick agreed that although it marked a change from the variety-led range, the team had always wanted to launch regional varieties, but it had taken a while to get the timing right.

“It is a natural fit for the UK – if you think where I heart has done well, with Prosecco and Pinot Grigio in particular, for the consumers, these are brands in their own right, so I heart enforces that and gives an emotional feeling to the product. So we looked a tother products were the consumer is engaged – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Argentinian Malbec and Rioja. So those three are a natural fit for the UK, and also wines where the consumer is happy to pay a little bit more,” he said.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is now worth around £341 million of retail sales value, with growth of 27% year-on-year, according to Nielsen data (Nielsen MAT to 08/1016), with Rioja growing 5% to around £191 million. Argentinian Malbec has also seen very strong growth of 53% year-on-year, making it worth around £107 million.

Another new range being unveiled at the London Wine Fair was the new contemporary Hungarian brand, Törley Talisman, which aims to “invigorate’ the Eastern European markets and generate “mainstream interest”.  Parent brand Törley, which has been owned by Henkell since 1992, is a market leader in Hungary that Copestick said was “steeped in history”, but its “very Eastern European” label was not particularly UK-friendly. It was this that lay behind the creation of a new contemporary label for the UK market using a brand name already owned by the company.

It comprises three varieties, a dry Furmint, a Grüner Veltliner and a Egri Bikaver Bulls Blood, with separate labels to cater for the off-trade, and the on-trade and independent retailers. It is due to launch in Tesco next month.

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