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Pieter Rosenthal of on the Thierry Cabanne Scholarship.

Published:  18 August, 2009

Harpers Blog - Week 2:

Pieter Rosenthal, winner of the WSET Thierry Cabanne Scholarship Award.


Harpers Blog - Week 2:

Pieter Rosenthal, winner of the WSET Thierry Cabanne Scholarship Award.

The concept of the Thierry Cabanne Scholarship is to give the successful candidate exposure to the ins and outs of the wine trade but it is also an opportunity for Thierry's to get a fresh perspective on the market, processes and procedures as well as some specific areas of interest.

This week I'm looking at the on-line market and I am quite surprised to find a distinct lack of market data available. Although virtually everyone, other than perhaps Vinexpo chairman Robert Beynat, agrees the potential is huge, the lack of data is hampering efforts to fully understand it. Maybe that's just the issue. The meteoric rise of social networking and in particular Twitter over the last few months means throwing out the rulebook of traditional marketing. And we're all desperately trying to come up with the next 'Stormhoek' or 'Best Job in the World' campaign.


In the meantime, the majority of wine is increasingly sold in the major supermarkets with deep price promotion at its core. I am a bad supermarket shopper as I am very disloyal, but then I don't think I am representative as a wine consumer either. Concern for the overall category of wine leads me to believe that this predilection for '3 for £10' is unsustainable in the long term. It is devaluing the whole category with increasingly tighter margins. And recent consumer research indicates that although they want a good deal, this doesn't always mean cheap. What will happen when VAT goes back up in January? Somehow I doubt the deal will change to 3 for £10.22, which therefore means that someone will have to absorb the difference. And that is before the Darling-duty will increase the pressure even further. We would be wise to remember good value and cheap are two very different things.


When I talk to Matthew Dickinson, Commercial Director at Thierry's, about this he agrees that margins are tough. At the same time, he takes a very business-like view and explains that wine is a commodity to be traded, no matter how emotionally attached we may be to that commodity. With a worldwide over-capacity, the laws of supply and demand would dictate pressure on prices. It may not be profitable in the short term to supply a wine at such a low price-point but it may be better than being left with tanker-loads unsold.


Oh, and just to show my emotional attachment to one of Thierry's wines, try a bottle of Caldora's Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2008. Forgive me WSET for not using the systematic approach here but it is in one word, delicious (available in Thresher/Wine Rack) I tasted a few Pecorinos at the Definitive Italian Tasting a couple of weeks ago and there is no contest. I am biased, of course.


My second week finishes on a tasting high with a tasting before lunch of the sparkling wines from top Saumur producer, Bouvet-Ladubay introduced to us by Juliette Monmousseau as well as an introduction to Thierry's hero producer wines with the ever enthusiastic Oli Barton. Oli is a resource executive at Thierry's and loves talking about his favourite producers and tasting their wines. And the line-up is impressive, with wines like Marcus Huber's elegant Grüner Veltliner Obere Steigen, a wonderfully aromatic Dry Muscat from Gérard Bertrand and the floral-fruity Lapaccio Fiano from Pasqua. Reds include an impressive Vacqueras from Skalli's Caves Saint Pierre, the concentrated Fitou Paziols from Mont Tauch and an equally deep, but very juicy Santa Julia Tempranillo Reserva from Zuccardi. Time for the weekend!


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