How Lanchester Wines found alternative Sauvignon supply to fill New Zealand's gap
The shortage of New Zealand’s wines, caused by a yield 20% smaller than usual, has forced many wine buyers to think creatively about where to fill the gap.
UK-based Lanchester wines usually buys around one million litres of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc a year, which goes towards making the company’s flagship Nika Tiki brand, plus around 200,000 to 250,000 litres of Sauvignon from other regions including Nelson and Martinborough.
But given this year’s lack of availability, the company’s director of purchasing Lesley Cook had to act fast to cope with the shortfall, and said that despite having a good relationship with New Zealand producers, none of her contacts were able to find wine available in bulk that wasn’t astronomically priced.
Had she managed to source bulk wine from Marlborough, prices were around 25% higher than previous vintages, added to which the increased cost of shipping, up by approximately 7% because of the pandemic, would have resulted in the price to the on-trade consumer increasing by as much as £6 to £7 per bottle.
“Although we have faced increased costs across the business, we really want to avoid passing those onto our customers as we’re well aware that they are only just re-opening for business and also facing a rise in costs themselves,” she told The Buyer. “Some of the bigger wine companies paid in advance for grapes when they were just budding, because they knew their own estate production was going to be too low to supply their own brands. Those branded wines that are bottled in new Zealand are going to shoot up in price, unfortunately, because the producers have no choice.”
First realising that a shortfall was likely back in November last year when the frosts hit New Zealand’s vineyards, Cook says South Africa seemed the obvious first port of call to fill the gap. “I felt it would be able to provide the style and quality we were after at the right price, and we have good connections there,” she explained.
Speed was of the essence, as it was vital to secure a supply before everyone else started to place their orders, but with Cook’s contacts, she knew exactly where to turn. After sending samples of Nika Tiki to South Africa for analysis so that wineries could try to match it, they came up with a blend that satisfied Cook.
The South African wine she sourced went into the making of a new wine, Moloko Bay, that replicates the characteristic of Lanchester’s Nika Tiki, without replacing it. “We’re not replacing Nika Tiki, because that will always be a dedicated Marlborough brand, but we needed to find something to replicate it in the portfolio to help our customers satisfy their own customers.”