Why wine is very much out of its comfort zone

Here is an article I wrote for the new global bulk wine trading platform, www.vinex.market, on the challenges facing the world's wine industry and how successful companies in the future will be the ones who are fleet off foot and able to develop strategies for multiple channels. 


Flying back to the UK on Tuesday night, after three days (and nights) of the Prowein international wine fair, I drifted off to sleep pretty easily. But I was soon awoken by the sound of people buzzing with chat and excitement all around me. 

Rather than use the bleary eyed 9pm flight back from Dusseldorf to catch up on much needed sleep, the talk of the wine folk onboard, recalibrating after three days of intensive debating, talking, and tasting, was as alive as it was at the fair only hours earlier.

This was very different to the exhausted communal white flag equivalent of a plane journey home that I have been on in recent years. The reason was evident on every aisle or stand at Prowein. This is an industry at arguably its biggest crossroads in its history. Which way producers, generics, suppliers or distributors turn now will dictate their futures for both the short and long term. Why? Well it all comes down to which channel of the trade you are in - or more to the point - not in.

For years producers, distributors, suppliers have had avery clear strategy and focus for their chosen channel of business. Be it multiple, independents, specialists, online or on-trade. Now the picture is very different. Producers and suppliers alike are having to learn new skills, find new contacts and be far more fleet of foot than they have in the past. The multi-channel wine industry is alive and kicking and if you are not equipped to take part, and identify the right channels for your wines, then you are in danger of being left in the hard shoulder.

To be successful as a big volume wine producer or supplier you need to spread your bets. You need to be using all numbers on a dartboard. Not just getting the big cash backs for hitting double tops or triple 20 with a few multiple retailers like you have in the past. That means having effective sourcing, buying and selling skills in your business capable of making the most of all these exciting routes to market.

It will also mean different buying and sourcing requirements to suit each channel's increasingly specialised needs. We are going to increasingly see wine served in every conceivable shape and size from mini tasting flights, through to the new 187ml Single Serve glass and up to the 2L Wine-In-Tube. 

The successful wine business of tomorrow may not have even been at this year's Prowein. It all adds up to exciting times ahead where the companies that can come up with the right packaging and delivery formats that get wine to the consumer in a way then can engage with are set to be the winners of tomorrow. 

But that is a lot easier said than done. Claiming you have wines suitable for every channel or at every competitive price point is one thing. That soon falls down under the scrutiny of the hyper skilled buyers now working across these highly coveted retail platforms.

Challenge to Prowein

The challenge for Messe Dusseldorf, and other trade exhibitions, is to ensure events like Prowein are as current and on trends as possible. Yes, it is ultimately about tasting wine and doing business, but it would be good to see a greater focus on the supply chain and logistical challenges the industry now faces to get the right goods to market as effectively as possible. Whether it be bottled at source, shipped in bulk and bottled in the destination market, Prowein owes it to the trade to have those agendas and discussions up for debate too.

Which brings us back to the excited chatter on the plane back from Prowein. This was experienced buyers, suppliers and producers, with no matter how many Prowein notches on their belts, testing the waters, asking the questions and opening up to the stranger sitting next to them, in the hope of finding out that extra snippet of information.

The wine trade is well and truly out of its comfort zone.

The good news is there is no shortage of options or choices.
Prowein is the equivalent of a global version of the Eurovision song contest or latter day Miss World. It is without doubt wine’s biggest international talent contest in the world.

But how do you stand out when the quality of wine at even sub three, two or even one euro price points is now so high that it is hard to determine where the real difference lies? 

That’s what is going tokeep us all awake at night as we come down from the buzz and adrenaline of Prowein.