Richard Hemming: start of the wine trade term

Every September, as millions of children return to school, so the wine trade sharpens its pencils and girds its liver in readiness for the new term. Here are five ways to make the most of it.

Tasting, Tasting, one, two, three

Attend as many tastings as you can. The next few months are jam-packed with trade tastings catering for every wine whim. if you’re within the M25, you have a wealth of choice. Those outside London should support every regional event coming their way – the more popular these become, the more will follow. An additional one or two carefully chosen days in the capital can cover most bases. Just as importantly: Be prepared. Turning up without a plan is as sensible as turning up dressed in white. By all means see existing suppliers to taste new vintages and catch up with friends, but it’s equally important to look further afield – to review the gaps in your range, meet new importers, taste new wines and learn new stories. So: keep checking the Wine & Spirit Trade Association calendar, register in advance, download catalogues, timetable your day and take proper notes. A clipboard to lean on and a portable spittoon (aka an empty coffee cup) are nerdy but invaluable.

Know your vintages

As the northern hemisphere starts harvesting, and with the southern hemisphere’s vintage now finished, it pays to know the fortunes of all the wine regions you deal with. It will inform your forecasts about likely price shifts and availability issues over the next 12 months – plus any decent wine merchant should be able to give their customers the latest harvest headlines. You can find plenty of good vintage reports online for free.

Get the best from your suppliers

In the back-to-school spirit of renewal, it’s timely to speak to your suppliers for a general review. Tell them what activity you’re planning and see if they can help, ask which of their winemakers are due to visit, get dates for new vintages, ask how their summers were. By making the first move, you can take the initiative and get the best from them.

Talk to your customers

This applies all year round, but is worth optimising at key periods. Update your website, refresh your A-boards, email your database, replace your posters and rewrite your blackboards. Send out the message that you have something worth seeing.

Have the best c-word ever

For some people it’s a dirty word outside December, but Christmas is coming whether you like it or not, and the earlier you prepare the better. Taking care of the above points should set you on the right track, but there’s always more that can be done, from scheduling final ordering and delivery dates, to arranging in-store tastings, to getting staff trained up and on-side.


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