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Jago: ‘This is one of the most exciting times for wines’

Chairman of the WSTA, Dan Jago, has said that he is excited by the opportunities for the UK wines and spirits industry following Brexit.

Dan Jago is the chief executive of Berry Bros. & Rudd and chairman of the WSTA

Having previously commented that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union would pose a “monumental challenge” for the UK drinks trade, speaking exclusively to db last month, Jago spoke of his excitement regarding the opportunities too.

“This is going to one of most exciting times for the wines and spirits industry in terms of complete change in the ground rules,” he began, during an interview with db last month – which will be published in full in the June edition of the magazine.

Continuing, he said that although he didn’t support Britain’s vote to leave the EU, he was now focused on finding the benefits for the UK drinks trade following the decision, especially for producers focused on exports.

“I was an adamant ‘remainer’, but now that the decision has been made, I am absolutely committed to doing the best possible job that we can for and with the wine and spirits industry in being a trading nation with as many places in the world as we can.”

He said that he was dedicated to finding “ways of being a sustainable importer – we don’t want to upset what we are already doing – but we also want to find ways of being a more ambitious exporter.”

He then added, “The wind is behind us rather than in our face on this one at the moment I think.”

Indeed, Jago expressed his surprise at the possibilities that have emerged since Brexit.

“Both with my Berry Bros & Rudd hat on, and my WSTA hat on, I’ve been surprised at the enthusiasm we’ve had, and the discussions we’ve had because of Brexit, as much as challenges we face as the result of Brexit.”

When asked by db to provide an example, he cited the reaction of Australian wine producers who export to the UK.

“Australia has been discussing free trade agreements [with the UK], and very quickly; Australia wants to be right at the front of the stuff they do with us as a country, which is great,” he remarked.

“It is great to have support from your friends and I think that we are seeing a renewed enthusiasm about what we might do as exporters,” he added, referring to Britain’s most successful drinks businesses, from the Scotch and gin industries, as well as, increasingly, English sparkling wine.”

Talking about the latter, he then said, “It has an ambition to be about 50:50 domestic to export – and it’s our job to help them do that.”

Acknowledging the impact of the devaluation of the pound following Brexit, Jago said that this was affecting many parts of the UK trade, and, as previously reported by db, had benefitted the fine wine market – buyers in places such as Japan and the US, where the currency is stronger, have been buying famous labels through the UK merchants at a reduced cost due to the change in exchange rates.

“There is currency affect all over the place and our en primeur sales are 10% higher exactly due to the currency effect due to Brexit compared to where we were one year ago,” he stated.

He also observed a heightened interest among members of the UK drinks trade in joining the Wine and Spirit Trade Association since the leave vote was announced.

“Brexit has certainly solidified our membership and we’ve never had a higher membership than have now,” he said.

However, he also observed, “I think that part of that is also because the WSTA has never done such a good job as it is doing now – the value for members and quality of work they are doing is world class, genuinely. There are only 13 people at WSTA and the output is terrific. And the level of experience is great – in Simon Stannard and Miles Beale you have two of the most experienced British ex-civil service negotiators; and we are very lucky to have them.”

Speaking more genuinely to db about his approach to work following Brexit, he said that it was important to focus on things you can affect, and not waste energy on those issues you have no influence over.

“The thing to do is not to worry about the stuff that you can’t affect. In life, generally, if there are things that you have absolutely no influence over, then don’t worry about them, but if you think you can influence something, then apply your whole heart and mind to it.

“But the one thing that people find very difficult is being able to separate the two,” he concluded.

For a full interview with Dan Jago, see the June issue of the drinks business.

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