Wine merchant BI reports soaring sales but warns it may quit UK over Brexit

London fine wine merchant BI reported 6.1% revenue growth in the first half of 2018 thanks to increased demand for US wines, Burgundy and Champagne.

Turnover rose from £49 million in the same period in 2017 to £51 million this year and the management hailed “an exceptional performance”.

However, the retailer warned it might have to move its headquarters to France if the UK leaves the EU in a no-deal Brexit. If large tariffs are imposed on wine under World Trade Organisation rules in the event of no deal being reached, it may be forced to relocate.

Yet despite that portentous revelation it revealed how pleased it was with its H1 performance, saying that UK and European consumers made up half of its sales.

A further 40% went to Asia  and the rest of the world took the remaining 10%.

The performance was its best since 2011, despite a weak Bordeaux en primeur campaign hit by high prices and poor ratings.

En primeur sales fell 50%, but BI made up for that with sales of Burgundy up 11%, Champagne up 18%, US wines up 96% and rare spirits growing 251%.

Sales via BI’s LiveTrade platform, a two-way market-making platform for rare wines and Champagne, increased 12% to £20 million, accounting for 39% of total sales.

Managing director Gary Boom said: “It has been fascinating to watch the continued growth of trade in physical vintages throughout the world. In previous years a lacklustre en primeur campaign has led to a general slowdown in interest for wine buyers, but 2018 has certainly bucked this trend.

“Bordeaux clearly remains the go-to region but the market is being driven by mature wines rather than new releases.

“The continued growth of interest in Champagne is also extremely satisfying. We’ve long believed that Champagne is not only a brilliant wine to drink, but actually fantastic value compared to other wine regions of comparable quality.

“Asia was initially reluctant to engage with this market, preferring red wine, but the revolution is certainly coming. This only adds value to the investment proposition of Champagne as the speed of post-release consumption already far outstrips the slow maturation of the best wines.”

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