Coe Vintners keen to boost wine reputation

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Coe Vintners is aiming to become as well known for wine as it is for spirits, according to the group’s commercial director Nick Gillett.


Speaking exclusively to Harpers, Gillett said the group wanted to “change people’s perceptions” and get sommeliers to choose Coe Vintners when looking for wine.


The Coe group of companies encompasses the wholesaler Coe Vintners, which accounts for around 60% of the business; the wholly-owned but separate divisions of Mangrove, a spirits importer and agency and Barwell & Jones, its wine equivalent.


The group also operates IDS, which supplies embassies around the world with a range of goods, as well as IDS Dubai, which services diplomatic corps throughout the Middle East. Another company, Intagulf, has recently been set up as a wine and spirits agency in Dubai.


Currently around 90% of Coe Vintners’ core wholesaling business is within London and the M25, although it has recently expanded its sales team on the south coast, and is also targeting East Anglia.


The firm is keen to become better-recognised for its wine selection and now employs two MWs, with four other team members studying for the exams. Although spirits dominate the firm’s list, wine still accounts for 40% of sales.


Gillett said it works closely with premium independent bars and restaurants, including some of the smaller chains. “We don’t do big high street clubs but we have something going into most 5-star Michelin establishments.


“Our reputation in spirits is well-known, if we can source it we will get it for you, but we’re less known in wine. However we have a fine wine division and £1-3 million worth of stocks of our own.


“It’s about changing people’s perceptions - we want sommeliers to come to us for wine.”


In order to do that, the group has launched a new website and brochure, which focuses strongly on producers, Gillett said.


Its ambitions for the wine and spirits agency side of the business are aligned. It plans to pick up around nine additional products for Mangrove. “It’s straightforward, we want a product in every category.” He said it was adding a Cognac to its list from January, and had already lined up product launches for a couple of other companies in early 2013. “It’s very exciting - but we’ve got to temper our appetite for new products in order to cater for our existing range.”


As for Barwell & Jones, he said it was “definitely seeking new agencies” and would look for brands with “commercial appeal”, instead of quirky regional wines that, although interesting, may not “take the business very far”. Rather than looking to launch new brands into the UK market it will look for brands that are already here “to give them a boost”. It recently announced it will distribute Portugal’s Herdade do Esporão and Chile’s Viña Morandé.


It is considering expanding into Europe, as it holds the rights to a number of agencies for the wider European market.


Of the group’s £75 million turnover, Mangrove and Barwell & Jones contribute roughly £5-6 million each.

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