Wine Investment Association chairman calls on trade to make up its mind on self regulation
The fine wine industry needs to decide now if it is to back the newly formed Wine Investment Association so that it can move on and start to implement the work it has been set up to do.
That is the call from the WIA's chairman, Hugo Rose, who said the time has come for fine wine brokers and companies to make it clear where they stand on self regulation of the sector.
Rose believes it is now important for the fine wine sector to come together and address legitimate media and public concerns about how fine wine is traded.
In an open letter to the trade Rose questions the negative response its attempts to set up the WIA has had in certain parts of the trade and media.. He writes: "A number of well known players have been quick to distance themselves, saying that they have no intention of joining, in most cases as far as I know without examining the WIA's Code of Practice, its Compliance Audit or its Independent Adjudication Panel. And the response from the trade press has often been excoriating, preferring to dwell on the history of the WIA's founders rather than the substance of its mission. Talk about playing the man, not the ball!
"The WIA is a trade association, and its founder directors are drawn from the trade. For good reason too, as this is a fundamental tenet of self regulation. And yes, some bear the scars of past activities. But none is or has ever been barred from holding directorships and each has completed an FSA-style disclosure prior to their appointment. Our chief critics know this but persist in what can only be described as character assassination. The board, comprising myself, Peter Shakeshaft, Adrian Lenagan and David Jackson are involved because we want to see change in the sector, to raise the professional bar so as eventually to reduce fraud and pecuniary loss to zero.
"Cui bono? Do we benefit from our directorship of the WIA? The answer is plainly no. It is costing each of us time, money and, clearly, reputational risk. We could quite easily have kept our heads below the parapet and quietly got on with our business. The truth is that that is precisely what the trade generally has been doing for the last three decades, wringing their hands whilst at the same time holding their noses, as rogue traders set up around them to fleece unwary customers and as poorly managed firms crash taking their creditors with them. And in a sense the wine press has played its part in this unsatisfactory status quo. Wine investment is frequently derided as ungentlemanly even though it is an economic necessity underpinning the important secondary market for fine wine. Jim Budd is a notable exception and his initiative with the WSTA in 2011 was a welcome if unambitious start.
"In the face of further company failures and prosecutions the WIA says enough is enough, and is creating a ‘brand of safety' with its Kitemark logo. We need to bring as many legitimate, ethical providers of wine-as-investment with us, inside rather than outside the tent. I call upon the trade to get behind us and to recognise the need for positive action rather than negative criticism."