Taking Canada seriously: Jump in sales at Liberty Wines

Jo Gilbert

Canadian winemakers face an array of hurdles coming to the UK: high shipping and production costs, fierce competition, and difficulties settling on margin and price.

Interest is predominantly coming from the high-end on-trade, where Canada’s quality offerings are being given a platform to shine.

Canada’s UK based High Commission reports a higher rate of registrations for the upcoming trade tasting on May 16; and there does seem to be a growing interest in the country’s wine scene, backed up by sales figures at Liberty Wines where YOY sales for the category rose 27% from February 2016 to February 2017.

David Gleave, Liberty MD, also reported a growing interested in Canadian wine.

“Those that are successful are no longer viewed as ‘oddities’, but are seen instead as good wines in their own right that merit a place on a wine list,” he said.

However, according to Liberty wine buyer Jennifer Docherty MW, who hails from Vancouver, Canadian wine’s niche appeal is still largely responsible for generating interest in this country which boasts both cool and warm climate regions. 

“Sommeliers like Canada because it rounds out lists, and adds another layer of interest. The interest is from the high end,” she confirmed.

The rash of new high-end restaurant openings across the capital and nationwide has contributed to interest in quality wines from lesser known regions.

But barriers still persist.

In her presentations to Canadian producers looking to export, Docherty tries to rectify a lack of understanding surrounding the UK’s notoriously competitive and fragmented market.

“The UK market can be quite complicated,” she explained.

“To penetrate the main retail channels, you need to be able to sell at an entry level price, which Canada just cant do due to shipping and production costs.”

Also she points to the lack of sales support in the UK compared to wines from the US which has a presence here in the form of the Californian Wine Institute UK.

“Canada doesn’t really have a trade body here to help sell Canadian wines. They don’t need to as the domestic market is quite strong.

“But it’s a great they do a tasting good first step – it’s a really good first step.”

At the tasting on May 16, Docherty will be possibly looking to expand the two labels currently in Liberty’s portfolio: Bachelder (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and Inniskillin’s ice wines.

Docherty describes Bachelder’s Niagara Chardonnay as a “stunning example” of an elegant, not very oaked, wine from the region.

Elsewhere, Enotria & Coe report strong cross-channel sales of the region’s ice wines and have added two wines in response.

At the tasting, a masterclass will highlight key white varieties Riesling and Chardonnay, hosted by winemakers and UK-based wine consultant Michelle Cherutti Kowal MW.

The Canada Tasting, hosted by the High Commission of Canada to the UK, returns to London on 16th May at Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

Register at www.canadatasting.co.uk.

Thirty-five producers from Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec will exhibit both wines and spirits.

 

 

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