Wine importers, Moreno Wines – specialists in Spanish and Italian wines – have one eye on the north of England with the appointment of their news sales executive, Mark Ferguson.
MORENO Wines has always been London and South East centric despite having a few long-established customers in the north of England.
Established in 1968, Juan and Salome Moreno started selling Spanish wines to the restaurant trade in west London when Portobello was the heart of the Spanish community. In the 1970s Spanish wine and food didn’t have a great reputation in the UK but by the 1980s – thanks to an increase in tourism to Spain, the Brits were ready for a real taste of Spain.
The following boom in Rioja sealed their fate. Moreno Wines was at the forefront of introducing regional Spanish wines to the UK, where Priorat, Cataluña, Toro and the like were little known.
“London has always been fairly straight-forward,” says Mark Ferguson.“There is a small minimum order and we can offer next working day delivery. For wine distributors it is ‘low hanging fruit’ and, despite being very competitive, there is plenty of business.”
But times are changing. The restaurant scene in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, York, Harrogate, Liverpool, is booming and we need to be part of it.
“It’s exciting times,” says Ferguson.
“But the north is different. Logistical costs make it difficult to supply relatively small orders to customers in these cities and beyond without costing a lot of money. Our northern customers deserve the same service offered to London and the south-east.”
Moreno’s focus is the heartland of northern England. And it’s ‘selective’ wholesalers that Ferguson is in charge of targeting.
So, how does he identify the wholesalers? Well, “We want to work with good, pro-active wholesalers that are quality conscious and are looking beyond just basic price point,” says Ferguson. He acknowledges it’s a vital partnership to be had as the regional wholesalers already have a relationship with their customers and the hospitality industry is all about relationships and offering good customer service.
“In London people can eat and drink with access to phenomenal wine lists from excellent importers but this hasn’t always permeated through to the north.”
The current economic uncertain times doesn’t seem to worry Ferguson as he points out the 24-40 year-old age bracket are still spending… and they are demanding more than a mediocre meal or bland wines.
Shall we mention Brexit at this point? “Brexit? – Nobody knows what is going to happen yet. It could be that very little changes beyond the exchange rate but let’s see how it pans out over the next 12–18 months.”
Although Spanish and Italian are still the bread and butter of the business, Ferguson insists Moreno is well placed to offer a broad portfolio of wines from across the world. Watch this space for new lines coming on board from France, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and other key ‘new world wine countries.”
What’s hot from Spain?
Ferguson recommends anything from Galicia – no surprise Albariño is a perfect match with shellfish.
Or try Tierra Hermosa, Neblerio Tempranillo 2011 with Galician beef aged to as much as 18 years old! The prized meat comes from Galician Blond old bullocks (castrated males). And can be found in Levanter in Ramsbottom. It was also introduced on the summer menu for Manchester’s Spinningfields restaurant, Iberica and Sir Jukes in Leeds.
Chacolí – a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque Country. It’s a perfect match with anchovies.
And in the wider wine world?
Cava will see resurgence along with the rise of English sparkling wine. They will fill the £15-30 retail mark, with marked Champagne now rarely found below £30 in retail. Prosecco will continue to dominate the £10-15 price point.
Sauvignon Blanc will still be the favourite from New Zealand as it’s what customers know and is an easy go-to wine.
Don’t try and ‘educate’ consumers. Staff should be knowledgeable but a lot of consumers will see a wine on the list, google the name and grower and learn themselves; that’s how their knowledge increases. My pet hate is saying consumers should be educated.