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UK merchants report £100m+ sales last year

The UK’s top wine merchants have had a bumper year, reporting sales of over £100m each and massive increases on 2009.

Carruades: in the top ten

Sales successes are due mainly to the ever-burgeoning Chinese market, and the superb 2009 vintage in Bordeaux.

The most complete picture comes from London merchant Farr Vintners, in whose ‘end of term’ report, chairman Stephen Browett announced sales in 2010 of £169m, more than doubling 2009’s figures of £83m.

This figure was helped massively ‘by record demand during the extraordinary 2009 en primeur campaign…which brought sales of £62.8m’. This is three times the figure for the 2008 vintage of £20m total sales.

While other merchants do not publish figures in such detail, Berry Brothers, the biggest and oldest wine merchant in the UK, told Decanter.com it sold £110m of En Primeur wine alone in 2010.

BBR figures for en primeur on the 2008 vintage were £40m; on the classic 2005 vintage they were £60m

Another of the big three London merchants, Bordeaux Index, will not release figures but told Decanter.com sales were above £100m.

Fine & Rare, also in London, reported turnover in 2010 of ‘approximately £53m, almost double the £28m we did in 2009’.

Farr’s statistics show the overwhelming importance of Bordeaux to the UK market. In volume terms Bordeaux accounted for 79.94% of the company’s sales, and 87.20% by value.

The next highest figure was Burgundy, accounting for 6.32% by volume.

All of Farrs top-selling wines were Bordeaux, with (by volume), Pontet Canet leading the field, followed by Lynch Bages, Lafite, Cos d’Estournel and Cantemerle.

By value, the five first growths, followed by Cos and Petrus, were the leaders. Lafite was the top seller.

Carruades de Lafite, the second wine of the blue-chip property, was in the top ten in the value list, outperforming such icons as Cheval Blanc

This is testament to the ‘huge importance’ of China, Browett said. For Farrs, the Far East was second only to the UK in volume with 36.09% of sales, and led in value terms, with 49.27% of sales, followed by the UK with 40.60%.

He added, ‘It is expected, and hoped, that as the Chinese market becomes more educated and sophisticated, there will be less emphasis placed on the “chosen few” and demand will grow for a broader selection of wines.’

As for Burgundy, it should be remembered that the 2009 vintage – which goes on sale this month in London – is considered, in many communes, as good as that of Bordeaux, so merchants are anticipating a successful campaign.

BBR told Decanter.com, ‘Today (5 January) is the first day of our 2009 Burgundy campaign and we have sold more today already than the whole of the 2005 campaign.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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