From Vineyards Direct’s ‘lost’ en primeur wines ‘in process’ of being resolved

Around 300 customers who bought en primeur wines from UK retailer and delivery service FromVineyardsDirect.com (FVD) before it entered administration look set to receive their wines, despite administrators’ initials fears these might all be lost.

The administrator originally estimated that around 500 customers who bought en primeur wines from the UK wine retailer and delivery service since 2016 might not receive the en primeur wines they had already paid for, following the company being sold out of administration.

Around 80 wines were thought to be affected, including some of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage that was due to arrive in the UK in 2019, all of the 2017 and 2018 Bordeaux vintages due to arrive in 2020 and 2021, two wines from Burgundy 2017 vintage and one from the Rhône 2016 campaign.

Although generally en primeur wines are reserved when the customer orders are received and paid for in three instalments, the last payment being paid close to the date that wines are delivered, the new owners said that FVD had not been making all of the instalment payments.

According to documents filed by administrators CVR at Companies House, FromVineyardsDirect racked up losses of between £87,000 – £417,000 a year over the last five years, with losses of around £444,000 in the year to June 2018. An administrators’ report published in early November stated that en primeur sales creditors were owed more than £343,000, along with unsecured trade creditors of nearly £692,500, and nearly £136,500 was owed to HMRC.

Committed to resolving the problem

The Wine Company's chairman, Johnny Wheeler

The Wine Company’s chairman, Johnny Wheeler

However, following the pre-pack sale of the assets and goodwill of the South London-based company to rival wine site, The Wine Company (UK) Ltd (TWC), trading as Mr Wheeler, the situation is in the process of being resolved. More than 65% of the wines (around £230,000-worth) originally thought to be affected have now been resolved, or around 40% (300) of those customers affected.

Speaking to the drinks business last week, TWC’s chairman Johnny Wheeler said that although TWC did not have any liability for the historic purchases, it was taking the matter “very seriously” and had spent a significant amount of time trying to resolve the problem since acquiring the assets of FVD in early September.

“We are taking it very seriously and are committed to minimising the problem and hopefully resolving it completely on behalf of the customers as we really value the importance of en primeur and what the Bordeaux industry does,” Wheeler told db.

He added that the team were dealing with it wine-by-wine, resolving the 2016 vintage first before moving on to tackle the 2017’s and 2018’s in earnest in January. Currently, 92% of the Bordeaux 2016 had been resolved he said, with two wines from Burgundy 2017 vintage and one from the Rhône 2016 campaign also now resolved.

“All of the FVD en primeur wines already in bond in the UK are [now] secured and either already allocated to the customers or, in the case of the latest shipments, in the process of being allocated to customers”, the company confirmed in a statement to db this morning.

“The balance of the Bordeaux wines is in process and being worked on in discussion with the relevant Bordeaux suppliers who are generally being very helpful with the objective of a complete resolution.”

Wheeler confirmed that the number of customers affected today were no more than 200 and only 5% of FVD’s total customer-base had been affected by the problem.

Update

Following a large volume of queries from concerned clients, The Wine Company’s operations manager emailed clients in early November to assure them that the problem was being addressed and to communicate the progress made. He said the company was talking to suppliers on a wine-by-wine basis to see if the wine was still available, and assessing what financial commitment was required to secure these stocks, admitted that “some of the discussions, particularly relating to the 2017 and 2018 Bordeaux vintage, will be difficult. But at all times are are working to minimise the effect of these en primeur purchases remaining abroad”.

A further update will be issued to customer in December, he said.

However customers have told db that despite receiving the 2016 en primeur wines, it was “hard to know how hopeful to be” about delivery of the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, saying there has been little guidance on whether they need to do more to secure their rights after lodging an initial proof of purchase as instructed.

From Vineyards Direct was founded in 2007 by Majestic founder and former Chateau de Sours director Esme Johnstone and wine publisher David Campbell, offering a range of high quality wines direct from vineyards in Europe, at a significantly lower price than through conventional wine merchants. It typically offered a 20% discount on wines, it said, and created a strong niche market in wines from small producers that were not readily available elsewhere, as well as wines declassified from leading châteaux at prices significantly below the château label price.

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