Richard Siddle, comment December 17

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And so this is Christmas, another year over and a new one about to be begin. With all due respects to Mr Lennon it has been another eventful year in the world of wine and spirits.


We've had our normal dose of duty rises and the promise of more to come from our new super cutting coalition government.


In the political world our lobbyists now have to read the minds of two political parties and even more fickle ministers of state. But big steps were taken north and south of the border to keep minimum pricing at bay - at least for now.


It was a year when growing trends within the retail sector have bedded in. It is now clearer than ever there is a three-pronged strategy around wine in the multiple sector. Much in the same way supermarkets operate in all grocery areas; the basic, essential ranges; the mid priced big brand sector; and then the premium, Finest, extra special lines of own label and exclusive brands


In 2010 it has become clear which brands, wineries, and even wine producing countries are able or willing to fit into those parameters.


Asda has this week gone a stage further and set up a division to source and buy all its wines itself. It follows Sainsbury's decision earlier in the year to remodel its entry label own label range around its House concept, where wine is sold on the back of a varietal only, allowing it to switch its supply of grape to any country in the world depending on currency and costs. Steps that will send a shudder down the backs of supermarket dependent agencies and distributors.


By contrast 2010 will go down as the year of the independent sector. If anything it has been galvanised by the fall of First Quench. Former managers have set out on their own, whilst many existing independents have opened new stores or expanded existing ones. All against a backdrop of increased duty, cutbacks and uncertainty.


This has been matched by a huge shift in the wine trade's focus to, in many cases, independent first. Agencies are setting up independent only divisions and wineries are deliberately switching away from supermarkets to specialists.


We have looked to play our part with out Top Merchants initiative, and more recently our exclusive promotions mechanic #winedealfriday via Twitter. Expect more of the same in 2011.


Things have been tougher in the on-trade. But even here market forces have seen the strong get stronger.


Against all this is the overriding trend that the UK is no longer the number one export market for many wine producers. Important. Strategic. Yes. But whatever plans you are making for 2011 don't take their support for granted.


Whatever kind of year you have had can we wish you a Happy Christmas and a successful 2011.



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