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12/12/2008

Hawke’s Bay wines set to excite UK wine buyers

The world’s leading independent direct to customer wine merchant, Direct Wines is looking to double its sales of New Zealand wines as part of its drive to differentiate itself from other outlets by offering wines of quality and by exceeding customer expectations.

Direct Wines buyer, Thomas Woolrych was in New Zealand recently to scope potential wines to add to mail order lists. He told local winemakers that he believed Direct Wines had overlooked New Zealand wines and not taken them as seriously as the wines deserved but that he was going to rectify that. “I’m planning to kick out wines from elsewhere so we can fit in more New Zealand wines.”

Direct Wines sells approximately 4.5 million cases of wine each year direct to customers through internet, direct mailings, wine tastings and customer contacts via its sales team and 10 wine stores.

At present the 40 New Zealand wines included in Direct Wine offerings make up less than one percent of sales. Mr Woolrych believes that Hawke’s Bay wines (as with others around the country) were “exciting” and fitted well with Direct Wines as a supplier of different and exclusive wines of quality.

“We are aiming to raise our game and cement our niche away from supermarkets, with better wines made by real people with interesting stories to tell,” Mr Woolrych told winemakers from Hawke’s Bay’s leading exporting wine companies.

“New Zealand has huge appeal to our customers. If we tell them more about New Zealand, show them photos of your beautiful country, and share the very real stories of your wines and the people involved in making them, we will sell more of your wine,” he predicted.

“Our customers want romance, they want stories, they want to know that what they are drinking is special and different.”

Direct Wines was established in 1969 by Tony Laithwaite who started by carting Bordeaux wines to UK in a small van and selling direct to his friends and family from underneath a railway bridge arch. He called his business Bordeaux Direct.

Over time, his wine offering expanded from just Bordeaux wines and the company became Direct Wines, but remained true to the original concept of selling direct to customers. Today, Direct Wines runs a number of wine clubs – Laithwaites (www.laithwaites.co.uk) and The Sunday Times Wine Club. It also owns Averys, Virgin Wines and Warehouse Wines, all of which are run independently.

It also has a strong presence in USA having acquired Lionstone with its $60m turnover and mail order business in 30 states. In September this year, it set up The Wall Street Journal Wine Club which is already exceeding its sales forecast.

“When Tony started the business he was able to tell his customers real stories about where the wine was from, who grew the grapes and who made the wine. We want to get back to those roots and New Zealand has the wine and the stories that fit so well with what we’re trying to achieve,” Thomas Woolrych said. “What makes us special has real resonance with the Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand wine experience.”

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