5 minutes with the Morrisons wine sourcing team

We caught up with Mark Jarman (right) and Charles Cutteridge at the Morrisons Spring, Summer 2022 press tasting to talk about what’s new, the challenging consumer landscape and why Provence pink still has it

Drinks Retailing: What would you say is a key part of this tasting?

Mark Jarman: We are aware that the industry is facing some challenges, from a combination of harvest issues in the northern hemisphere and challenges within the supply chain as well. So, I think one of the key things that we wanted to show was that at a time when our customers certainly are facing challenges from a cost perspective, we have got a very solid value range for them.

We have a table [at the tasting] that is dedicated to £5 and below wines. And what we really want to show is that these are great value for money. Whilst we've got some very exciting wines in the rest of the room, a lot of very exciting ones in our Best range, some of which retail £15-16 - Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chablis Premier Cru - the £5 range is equally important at this time. And as we go through the year, things are possibly going to get even tougher for our customers. We’ve thought very carefully about this range and it’s a very key part.

DR: Have you singled out the value range before?

MJ: No. Some of those wines have been in the range for a long time but we’ve never really focused on them before, and I think what we recognise is that sometimes they get a bit lost among the tasting. So, we wanted to pull them out and say: ‘These are really great value and we put every bit as much effort into sourcing these wines and blending them as we do more expensive, premium product.’

It’s probably fair to say as a team that we create and blend pretty much everything that isn’t a brand in the room.

DR: How has the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc shortage shaped your range?

MJ: New Zealand had some challenges with the 2021 vintage, together with increased global demand for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

One of the things we did last year to help customers try alternatives was to introduce a Chilean and a South African Sauvignon Blanc effectively under the same brand umbrella – 64 Edge. Historically 64 Edge was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and we’ve introduced a Western Cape and a Chilean version.

DR: Will you carry on doing that?

MJ: We still have 64 Edge New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Once our customers discover those other wines and they become part of their repertoire, we are able to continue to include those lines as well.

DR: The summer drinking range has quite a few Provence rosés. Is that still the in-vogue style?

MJ: I think the trend is still very much towards the lighter, drier elegant styles of rosé. We’ve seen other countries that do it very well, without taking on a pure Provence style but moving more towards the Provence style in their own way. What we’re trying to show is that we can move closer to the style customers are expecting – i.e. a Provence style – but also celebrate what those countries are able to do in their own right as well.  

DR: Do consumers tend to buy rosé on colour, without knowing the grapes?

MJ: I think they buy on colour and taste – and image, the Provence bottles are very appealing. That’s an important part of the customer experience. I would say the grapes are less a part of it, which is probably a good thing because it could get very complicated with the various varietals that are in those wines. And that would be unnecessarily complicated from a customer’s perspective.

DR: What are your plans for the next year?

MJ: I think the key focus remains showing greater availability of our existing wine range.

I think we pride ourselves on having great relationships with the supply base, certainly during the course of the pandemic. And subsequently, as we've come out of the pandemic and are now facing other issues, those relationships are being fantastically helpful, and we support our suppliers.

I think one example of that is what we've done with the French range during the first half of this year and towards the back end of last year. When the harvest issues with 21 became apparent, we spent a lot of time with our supplier base sourcing additional volume from the 2020 vintage to tide us over. So, we were less reliant on 2021 both in terms of availability and cost pressures.

Charles Cutteridge: On that point, with some of those wines that needed a slight freshen with the 21 vintage, we’ve worked with our suppliers to make sure that whilst it’s 2020, it’s not, sort of, old liquid. It’s still very good quality but it’s able to offer good value.

MJ: Value for money remains absolutely paramount in terms of giving the best that we can to our customers at any price point.

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