Marks & Spencer sets itself apart with en primeur

Marks & Spencer has started selling 32 wines bought en primeur from the 2014 Bordeaux vintage as it aims to set itself apart from rival multiples. 

Emma Dawson MW, who masterminded the range in partnership with Moueix and Sichel, said M&S is trying “to offer an equivalent experience to what you can get in a small local shop”.

She told DRN: “We want to act more like a wine merchant than a supermarket. Why are you going to go to Marks & Spencer? You can get branded wines at other supermarkets. We need to be different. 

“We were the first to do orange wines. We have wines from Bolivia. We try to be creative and forward-thinking.”

A key difference between M&S and indies is the presence of knowledgeable staff who can hand-sell wines to shoppers at independent merchants. 

But Dawson said: “We have more then 100 wine advisors in our top stores. We did a full en primeur Bordeaux tasting with them. They were really engaged, tasting the difference between £10, £20 and £50 wines. 

“At the stores they are in it makes a huge difference. We would love to have one in every store but we have 700 stores and some are too small. 

“We know there’s more we can do, but hopefully we are getting close to replicating the experience you get in a small wine merchant.”

She said 2014 has proved a great year to start selling en primeur from Bordeaux as 2015 and 2016 are much more expensive and 2017 is not looking that good at the moment. “We do well for single-bottle fine wines online,” she said. “We just put in en primeur. We are selling five cases of Château Lafite by the bottle. That’s a really great opportunity as it’s hard to get hold of that wine. You don’t have to buy a case, you just buy a bottle for £430.”

M&S has a new BWS trading manager, Suzanne Webb, who has replaced Gary Brooking in the role. She said: “At the more everyday wine end, we have been busy extending our popular Craft 3 range, designed to showcase a signature varietal using the expertise of our winemakers and the producer who expresses it best. 

“It started out as a project in New Zealand to create the best possible Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and now includes Argentinian Malbec, South African Chenin Blanc, Californian Zinfandel and, most recently, an Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.”

She added that “our beer and spirit range has seen another incredible year of growth” and mentioned a range of Devon ciders and fruit beers as highlights to look out for. M&S is also hoping to recreate its successful push on gin with vodka. 

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