Pol Roger Portfolio ‘open for business’

Pol Roger Portfolio, the UK distributor for the Champagne of the same name and a small collection of wines and spirits, is looking for more agencies as it identifies opportunities for growth.

Pol Roger Portfolio represents a handful of family-owned brands in the UK, from Glenfarclas Scotch to Drouhin Burgundy

While the importer-distributor sector in the UK wine trade is proving a difficult area, with narrow margins and a consolidating customer base, Pol Roger Portfolio is a growing business comprising a set of cherry-picked brands, which the London-based operation sells into a healthy independent trade, including wholesalers, merchants and restaurants.

“We don’t want hundreds of agencies, but we have room for three of four more, because the ones we have are working very well, and we think there’s space for more,” said James Simpson MW, managing director of Pol Roger Ltd, during a discussion yesterday with the drinks business.

He is hoping to attract new agencies in both wines and spirits, having lost one in each sector recently due a changes in ownership: Pol Roger Portfolio previously had Biondi Santi Brunello – bought by EPI in December 2016 – and Hine Cognac, acquired in 2013 by EDV SAS, the French, family-­owned investment company previously connected with the Nicolas off-­licence chain.

Simpson also believes that more wine and spirits brands will be looking for importer-distributors like Pol Roger Portfolio as the number of operators in this part of the trade diminishes.

“We have just seen Negociants UK close, and we believe there are others that may follow, so the number of agency businesses is declining, and we’ve been too nice, we’ve been waiting for business to come to us,” he said, before stating, “So I think it’s time to wave the flag and say, we’re here, and we’re open for business.”

When asked what type of brands he would like to attract, Simpson said, half joking, that he’d “love a Japanese whisky in time for the Rugby World Cup”, before adding, in a more serious tone, that Pol Roger Portfolio has had great success with whisky, notably Glenfarclas.

Indeed, he said that spirits was now 40% of Pol Roger Portfolio’s turnover, and commented that the demand for top-end brown spirits shows “no sign of diminishing”.

“I think a Bourbon or US whisky, or a rum would be interesting,” he said, later saying that he believed, in terms launching new brands into the UK, “it is too late for gin, and too early for Irish whisky.”

Turning his attention to wine, he said that he wasn’t focused on any particular country or region, observing the fact that there is high-quality wine being produced in all nations, although he would like something from Spain and / or Italy.

In general terms, he wants to represent a wine brand that is “in it for the long term”, and, ideally makes between 5-10,000 cases annually, that is trying to reach the restaurant, hotel and independent wholesale sectors.

He then commented, “We like family-owned and independent brands, and we like quality – we are looking for good wines and spirits with authenticity.”

He added, “We are looking for wines and spirits for our traditional customer base, the independent trade, because it is doing well.”

And why would such a wine producer want to be represented by Pol Roger Portfolio in the UK?

“We are good at looking after good brands,” said Simpson. By way of example, he recorded, “Drouhin is bigger than it has ever been,” while Glenfarclas has flourished under the operator’s care, “but when we took it on, it was only really selling a 10 year-old, and very few had heard of it.”

In particular, he said that Pol Roger Portfolio comprised a team of “really good sales guys”, “who can do the job nicely”, while, importantly, pointing out that the company “over-invests in wine education,” because, Simpson is adamant that a high level of product knowledge is necessary at the fine wine and spirits end of the trade.

“If you are selling posh booze then you need to know what you are talking about,” he concluded.

Pol Roger Portfolio represents:

Wines

  • Pol Roger– Champagne
  • Abreu Vineyards– Napa Valley
  • Crown Estates –Tokaji
  • Dalla Valle –Napa Valley
  • Maison Joseph Drouhin– Burgundy
  • Josmeyer–Alsace
  • Robert Sinskey Vineyards– Napa and Sonoma Valleys
  • Staglin Family Vineyard– Napa Valley

Spirits

  • Glenfarclas Single Malt– Speyside
  • Kilchoman– Islay

Read more:

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