How was your 2019? And Christmas predictions…
With plenty of awards under their belt, Loki Wine is the go-to place if you’re a wine lover who finds themselves in Birmingham. So owner Phil Innes is pretty well placed to tell us what’s happening in the dynamic world of wine. We caught up with him to discuss the hottest trends from 2019 and what he’s stocking up with in time for Christmas.
Lara: You were awarded ‘Best Multi-Store of the Year’ by Decanter, and ‘Midlands Regional Standout’ by Harpers this year. How do you feel about it?
Phil: Fantastic, it’s always rewarding to win awards! It means that you’re doing something good with your business and it rewards the hard work you put behind the shop.
Lara: What makes you different from other wine shops around Birmingham?
Phil: Our concept is modern and goes beyond retailing. We want to be as open and informal as possible with our customers, to make people change their perception about wine and make it more accessible to everybody. We have two shops with 72 wines by the glass thanks to Enomatics, and this allows people to try different products and choose what they like the most. Our main focus is on the product itself, as we only stock top-quality wine in a mixture of new, exciting wines and more traditional ones.
We organise a lot of wine tasting events, at least twice a week, because they are very important for the business. Recently we held a Rioja and a Gin tasting, which both quickly sold out! The difference with other wine retailers is that we offer a premium tasting experience, where people pay £30-40 for a ticket, but top-quality wines are cracked open during the event. Upcoming events will be on Christmas Champagnes, where we might let people taste Crystal among other things…
Lara: How do you compete with bigger retailers and supermarkets?
Phil: Well, supermarkets satisfy areas of the market in which we don’t compete, but they’re good at attracting customers and introducing them to the world of wine. With the opportunity to buy a bottle at £4, they attract a whole generation of usually younger people who might get passionate about the product and eager to expand their knowledge at some point. And this is where we step in: we allow people to explore new things, learn about different wine regions and countries. It’s very exciting to push people’s boundaries and get them to love new products which they didn’t even know before!
Lara: How do you make sure your customers have an amazing experience in your shop?
Phil: Customer service is one of the most important factors, because we want to get the right experience for every customer who walks through the door. Our staff are highly trained, from WSET Level 3 to diplomas or MW, so they know their stuff and can recommend and explain products to our customers. We also hand sell everything, even to our regular customers, to make the experience more authentic and establish a relationship. Regulars are the ones who explore the most, they never buy the same wine and we’re happy to guide them through their exploration journey. Lastly, as already mentioned, we really focus on top-quality and don’t stock anything which we don’t consider premium.
Lara: What were the biggest customer trends of 2019?
Phil: We saw a decrease in New Zealand and Australian Sauvignon Blanc, which was replaced by Italian white varietals instead. Italian whites are fantastic, there is so much potential there, but not a lot of people are aware of them unfortunately. We’ve been pushing them for the past couple of years, varieties such as Gavi, Pecorino or Tuffo, and finally it’s a big trend! People genuinely come in and ask for interesting Italian whites to try, and I’m sure this is an increasing trend because consumers have recognised the quality behind these varietals.
We’ve also noticed an increased interest in wine from Portugal and Greece, as they’re more accessible now compared to the past, when consumers could only enjoy these wines on holiday. The winemaking techniques have also improved thanks to investment, so these wines are now delivering fantastic value to consumers, who are willing to try and explore more. I hope consumers in 2020 will explore more of these countries, because they’re quite exciting!
Lara: And for Christmas?
Phil: Christmas is a bit different compared to the rest of the year, when people are more willing to explore new products and regions. At Christmas time, people stick to traditional wine such as a red Bordeaux, because they like to have an ‘important’ bottle of wine on the table. You can see the same trend with sparkling wine and Prosecco, which are highly consumed throughout the year, but when Christmas is close, consumers switch back to Champagne. I really think people like to celebrate in a traditional way because it’s a ‘family’ thing: you’ve got your parents around, older relatives, and they’ve celebrated in the same way for decades… You feel the need to meet those expectations with a classic touch!
Want to know what Italian whites are available in our portfolio? Contact your Account Manager, or get in touch here!