UK merchants neglect California

  • Wednesday 4 March 2009

California wines are 'woefully under-represented' by UK independent merchants, the UK head of Wines of California has said.

While California’s big brands sell very successfully in supermarkets, its image has been tarnished by its mass market appeal and heavy discounting, said John McLaren at the Specialist Independent Trade Tasting (SITT) in London last week.

'The problem is the consumer thinks California is what they see on the supermarket shelf and this perception has been passed on to the independent sector,' he said.

'Buyers are lazy and find it easy to deal with the big brands. There is very little drive to find something from Lodi.'

Independent merchants agree but argue California has few mid-range wines and does not offer good value for money, particularly with the strength of the US dollar.

'My perception is Washington and Oregon are more interesting and better value,' said Simon Taylor, director of Winchester independent merchant Stone, Vine and Sun, who imports no Californian wines.

'They are more elegant and lower in alcohol than Californian blockbuster wines.'

McLaren said his challenge is to change these perceptions, and he is working with California’s tourist board on this.

'California is not just Napa, there is something for everybody,' he said.

'It’s important to get independents excited about it.'

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