European supply challenge forces retailers to look at ‘exciting’ opportunities, Aldi says

The challenge of supplying Old World wine to the supermarket on the back of harvest constraints has provided wine buyers with a “massively exciting” opportunity, Aldi’s buyer Mike James has claimed.

Speaking to db at the Aldi press tasting last week, James said the challenging supply of European wine was largely vintage driven due to a couple of ”not great” harvests – but despite the challenge this presented, it was forcing retailers to be more imaginative.

“It is massively exciting as it forces you not to go to the default regions – not just defaulting to Bordeaux and Burgundy or even [just] the Old World,” he told db. “It is where an understanding of who produces what and where, and having good contacts in all corners helps you to formulate the strategy. So if you can’t do a wine that we would normally do,we don’t want to [stop using that supplier], we want to explore how can we work together.”

It was, he said where retailers’ long-term contracts were increasingly important in terms of securing volumes of wine and managing the vintage well in advance.

“I am off to Burgundy tomorrow to find out what is available as the volume not great to come by. Or if the volume is there, then maybe the quality if not as good as you’d like it to be. So it means asking what can we do and what they can offer in a similar style. “

“[However] if we can’t do this particular style, then we would start to look at Portugal or the New World, such as Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, or a Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend,” he said, adding that it was all about “the right proposition”.

Portugal, which was protected from the frosts in May, had been “very exciting”, he said.

“We have three showing today and one in the core range which has been flying from the word go without any PR or marketing backing – but it is a good price point and a good opportunity for the markets.”

Innovation

In terms of innovation, James said the retailer was not “giving up” on craft beer style wine bottles that launched last year, even though these have not been restocked since they first launched.

“We will be launching a similar but different range at the start of the year with Origin Wine,” James confirmed. “Whenever you innovate you have to put it out there to see what’ll work. Have belief and faith in what it’s going but we learnt a lot. From an innovation point of view, trying to pull people away from the traditional and arguably over-priced and expand their horizons with interesting bottles, shapes and labels.”

“If people don’t know the region, there is greater distrust so coercing them into trying the bottle – Christmas is a good time for expanding on that.”

Latest collection

James said the new line-up for Christmas was a mixture of classic and quirkier wines. “You can’t not do traditional but obviously you also want to do quirkier things and where you can,” he explained.

Gifting also worked well for us last year. It is good wine so it’s all about credibility, we’re proud of it, it is not ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.”

This year the retailer has added its first Jeroboam of Prosecco, which retails for under £40 (RRP: £39.99 for 3 Litres), along with a magnum of Champagne, and a new gifting box for its Malbec magnum which launched last year. It it is also selling a wine advent calendar, comprising 24 mini bottles of wine for £49.99, which will be available in store and online from 14 November.

Other gifting boxes include a limited edition Bordeaux Chateaux trio (RRP: £26.99) comprising a 2015 Chateau  de Cathalogne, a Chateau Peyredolle from Blaye, and a Chateau Pied D’Argent Bellevue, and a magnum of Calvet Bordeaux Superieur (RRP: £17.99).

Aldi has also expanded its sherry and fortified’s range for Christmas to include four new sherries, two returning for Christmas and two that are now part of the core range, following a trial last year. It has also added a new Maynard’s pink port (RRP: £7.99 per 50cl). James said that although there was an opportunity to sell fortified wines all year round, the retailer’s strategy was to concentrate on the Christmas period when the majority of sales of fortifieds and dessert wines.

“There is a short window of time people buy them,” he said. “We have a few more sherries this year, it’s nice opportunity to just how well they work, and a risk averse way of testing things [in the market].” 

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