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English wine: oversupply is ‘greatest danger’

The unique selling proposition of English wine is its scarcity, industry consultant Mike Paul said yesterday – and oversupply is its 'greatest danger'.

Speaking at the English Wine Producers’ annual tasting in London, the wine marketeer and former boss of Western Wines said the home-grown wine industry was growing exponentially, but its export market was ‘embryonic’.

‘We produced four million bottles in 2010. In five years that figure will be five or six times higher. How the industry manages that is crucial.’

Speaking mainly about sparkling wine, Paul said that the main problem with oversupply was not the fact of having too much wine, but the consequent undervaluing. ‘Under-pricing is much more damaging than over-pricing.’

Quoting Robert Mondavi’s theory of the ‘million-case boutique’, Paul said English producers must never lose sight of the premium value of their product: ‘Even if you have a million cases, you must always give the impression of not needing to sell anything.’

But he stressed that producers must start thinking now about supply and demand now.

‘The last thing you want with a tidal wave of wine is to think, “what do I do now?” It is the large producers who don’t export who are most at risk of oversupply.’

Paul said producers should exploit the ‘Englishness’ of their wine: ‘There is an export market for English wine in any city or country where Englishness adds value – any city with a Marks & Spencer, for example.’

As for still wine, Paul said the industry was still feeling its way. ‘We must continue to experiment. Should we be concentrating on Bacchus, or Ortega, or Pinot Noir? We don’t have the answers yet.

‘What you should do is focus on your brand and establish it by blending. Then you can say “This is my unique brand for this year”. The great advantage of blending is that the vintage is always different, and you don’t have to rely solely on one variety.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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