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Wine Society to invest in more mature and fine wines

The Wine Society is planning to boost its range of fine wines priced between £25-100 as well as increasing the number of wines it keeps in stock in order to release a wider selection of mature wines with bottle age on them in future.

The Wine Society’s Pierre Mansour

Speaking to the drinks business at its Autumn press tasting last Thursday (28 September), Pierre Mansour said that although the society already buys wine to hold for many years to release with some bottle age age, this had been something that had grown “organically” as a result of being a provider of wines en primeur.  However, there was now a great opportunity to build this in a more “strategic” way, in part facilitated by its recent move to its new state-of-the-art warehouse and offer “very mature wines that have perfect provenance”.

“What we want to do is have a more strategic approach to keep in mind,” he said. “As a business that doesn’t have to drive profit for external shareholders, we can invest in high level of stock. So we are going to take a much closer look at fine wine and offer very mature wines that have perfect provenance as something that our members will really take to.”

The Society’s members “adore good claret,” Mansour points out and the buying team are releasing a handful of Bordeaux that were kept back since they were released this Christmas. “

So, we’re offering Les Fiefs de Lagrange, Saint-Julien 2016 (£29), and Chateau Lannessan, Haut Medoc 2012 in magnum (£41) so really loving the mature wines,” he said. ““It’s something that we [already] do quite a lot of, buy wine and hold it for many years and then release it with age because we believe that mature wine is special, and provides a special experience.”

The plan, he said, was to plan this more proactively “and make a bit more noise about the beauty of selling and drinking wines that mature with complexity.”

“Currently, keeping stock makes up about 65% of its entire stock, equating to around four to five years’ worth of sales of those fine wines,” he explained. “It’s something that over the years of our history, we have just naturally had to keep in stock, but what we want to do is expand it beyond just the en primeur regions.”

The team, for example are backing aged Xinomavro, which Mansour argues has the “potential to age”.

“Our early tastings of some wines with slight age shows that wine should age well,” he said..

Greece has been a big area of focus in recent years, Mansour explains, following the explosion of “incredible quality and quality at good prices” coming from Greece over the last five plus year. “We have the opportunity as a business to go out and do a lot of travelling in Greece to discover new lines – and they resonate really well with our members.”

The buying team has built the range this year with the introduction of its first own label Xinomavro under the Exhibition own label (the flagship own label range already had an own label Assyrtiko).

He points out that the Society’s Greek white wine – “a lovely fruity, aromatic blend of Moschofilero and Roditis, which at £8.95 is under £10 pounds a bottle and designed to drink as a young fruity wine”, is now in its top five top selling wines.

“The other milestone is that this year sales of Greek wine have reached a level that we now sell as much Greek wine as Argentinian wine.”

Buying ethos

The Society’s buying ethos, Mansour explains is “quite simple”.

“We don’t have external shareholders, so our brief is to pick wines that tastes delicious, that reflects where they come from, that have personality and offer really good value for money,” he said.

Currently, the core range, which includes members’ favourites and the two own label ranges, the Wine Society and Exhibition ranges, comprises around 800 wines, however, there are on average around 1,600-1,700 wines available on the website, which gives the team the chance to showcase new and different wines and build up new and exciting areas.

“The word that describes the constant evolution of the range is ‘churn’,” Mansour explains, “It means that we’re constantly looking for new things and introducing new things as our members are really involved in wine, and they love exploring the world of wine too.”

The society will also be releasing a special own label wine range to celebrate if 150th anniversary next year, which will go on sale in January.

Speaking to db back in July, CEO Steven Finlan told the drinks business that the society had deliberately taken the focus off wines aged £10 and under, seeing the £10-20 bracket at it’s sweet spot. The average price of a bottle is currently around £12, Mansour said.


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