August 2021: The Ups and Downs...

We, as I am sure you are too, are receiving email after email either informing of price increases, or impending ones - Often, the excuse falls at the feet of Covid or Brexit however, I question their respective validity.

I also question the lack of foundation or an explanation to why we are paying more compared to last year, and often considerably more. Except for wine, deep sea freight shipping (out of Australia’s chief ports), packaging, UK bonded storage and our domestic delivery service with DPD are our primary costs. All of these have increased this year to worrying levels and I thought I would (as I like to do) share the exact problems we are facing and the costs involved as, and I say this with a big sigh, we must pass some of the costs on to you…

Deep sea shipments. In short, the problem is worsening to such an extent that we have ‘almost’ put the brakes on shipping out of Australia until January 2022. I have previously reported that one of the leading global shippers, and one we have used for years, is on its knees. Their Australian office are a dream to work with however, their UK office less so. Poor administration, shocking levels of communication and most importantly two to three week delays (after the wines have arrived in the UK) was a common theme on every shipment. Forgive the pun, we jumped ship and worked with another UK shipping agent. Granted, they were more expensive however, they promised better ‘communication’ and UK delivery service. They certainly need to work on their communication however, the speed in which they delivered our order (once landed) was tremendous. It also highlighted that our previous shipper’s excuses were complete fabrications.

Fast forward just a few months and the entire situation has changed. Obtaining a quote is akin to pulling teeth. Prices change daily (so they say) and we are left chasing for weeks. We have learnt that many shipping agents are piggy-backing off larger or better positioned ones – not too dissimilar to a wine broker. However, and regardless of their respective position, the message is loud and clear from everyone. Gaining a slot on a vessel is difficult and the delays are huge. 

Under normal circumstances, we could either ship on a ‘groupage’ service – essentially sharing a container with other wine or food importers which is cost effective and a great way to keep the flow of small volume orders coming into The Vinorium. Today, groupage is either not an option or, and in the case of one pallet which we must ship, we have paid 86.15% more than we did in August 2020. Shipping out of Adelaide or Melbourne is standard however, and to circumnavigate the ‘groupage’ issue, all wines destined for Melbourne were directed to Adelaide (some 700km). Our wine producers have been incredibly accommodating and we have split the additional cost 50/50. So, we have a full container ready to go and it has cost us exactly 89% more than last year.

This does not include the additional road cost – 100% would be closer to the mark. 

The commercial impact is obvious, but the wider problem less so… We have a new sample room filled with hundreds of bottles from new, prospecting wine producers and existing suppliers keen for us to purchase their new wine collections. However, the current and worsening ramifications are generating a commercial dilemma. Can we afford to absorb the massive shipping increases? The GBP to Aussie Dollar exchange rate helps a little (but that has dropped off this week), but the answer is ‘no.’ Should customers pay for this increase? In all conscience, passing the full cost increase on to you is unfair and something we are not willing to do. That said, do expect small increases and we will shoulder the remainder.

Currently, we pay all our winemakers before the wines leave Australia. Now, and for the very first time, we are asking our wine producers for support as we cannot fund all the increases and the cost of the wine in transit (I will come on to the rest shortly) whilst not being able sell a bottle (save for the odd producer). Most producers are obliging which is fabulous to see – As Ben Mullen (Mulline) aptly put it, “My thinking is we all need to help each other out in the hard times we are facing” and he’s right.

I do have a gripe with Wine Australia as I have seen no tangible effort to assist their export markets with this shipping crisis, which is ludicrous after the loss of China. Recently, they were enthusing over the UK / Aussie trade deal which, and in the cold light of day is worthless when, 1. It is super-difficult obtaining a vessel booking and 2. The ten pence saving on a bottle of wine (post trade deal) is swamped when shipping costs have increased by 80% or more. We ship over 250 individual Aussie wines from 37 producers (more than any other UK importer) with an average sales price of £33.00 which is exactly what Australia needs however, I have not received any communication from their UK office which is astonishing given the circumstances.

Some of our winemakers are taking part in Wine Australia’s series of online tasting events and we facilitate wherever we can. However, and if I am being totally candid, shouldn’t time, effort and monies be focused on what is important? Rather than a glossy PR tasting, which has no commercial value to the importer or the winemaker if their wine cannot be exported in a timely manner or has become too expensive to even ship? I am honestly astonished by their lack of awareness to what ‘really’ matters.

Domestically, all costs are on the rise from packaging to delivery services, fuel surcharges, bonded storage – Every cost associated with our day-to-day operation has increased and we have been warned that they will continue rise to which is an ominous thought…

So, we thought we would be transparent and share our costs for these services with you all.

 

What does it physically cost The Vinorium to send one 12 pack to you? This includes the box, inners, new tape and DPD’s delivery cost? £9.25 to be precise. 

We are a carbon neutral company and only use biodegradable packaging. We have received two price increases over the course of less than three months, with each increase being 6%. 

We also use paper tape too – That costs £6.08 per roll.

We offer free delivery for all orders over £125.00.
For the time being, this will remain.

             How many orders were sent without a delivery charge this year (in percentage terms)? 83% of orders were over £125 and received free delivery.

             What have these free of charge deliveries cost The Vinorium?
£13,198 and this excludes all packaging costs.

 

London City Bond

LCB costs have risen for both bonded storage and delivery. Storage costs have increased to an uncomfortable level of £9.88 ex VAT per 9 litres. This does not include insurance. We previously charged £9.00 ex VAT inclusive of insurance!

 

DPD Damages

Always a contentious issue and something we loathe. For example – we send out a beautifully packed case of 12 bottles. They smash one and the remaining are left damaged through wine stains and glass fragments. They only cover the cost (our cost) of the broken bottle. Tough titties to the unsellable eleven bottles.

How much damage have we suffered since 1 Jan 2020?

We have sent replacement bottles to the value of £1,198.15 (cost only).

How much has DPD refunded? Credits received for £588.46 ex VAT.

This does not cover packaging, the loss of unsellable bottles and all those apologetic freebies which we add to your orders…

And before you say ‘change couriers.’ They are the best out of a bad bunch – we’ve trialled them all!

 

Consequently, we are forced to increase the following prices (effective from 1 September 2021):

London City Bond’s annual storage charge is £11.95 ex VAT per 9 litre case – This fee includes full replacement insurance.

LCB have increased all ‘home’ delivery charges (variable and dependent on the postcode area). Our website reflects their new charges.

UK delivery from our HQ warehouse:

No minimum order value remains however, we are forced to increase our delivery charge from £8.95 to £9.95 for all orders below £125.00.

Except for the Highlands and Islands, we maintain free delivery for all orders over £125.00.

 

2020 was a year like no other and fascinating from a commercial perspective. Ecommerce companies flourished during the UK’s long spells of lockdown however, 2021 is a very different animal to tame and understand. The impact of Brexit (brushed aside during the pandemic) is now biting hard with no signs of easing. The UK wine market rejoiced at the abolishment of VI1s however, no effort has been made to facilitate the process of sending wine from the UK (without horrendous costs) to private clients in the EU.

We, as the UK’s leading Aussie wine importer, deal with VI1s with all our shipments. Essentially, our wine producers must submit their wine to a lab for analysis and onto Wine Australia for registration/certification. In short, and regardless of whether they are sending 24 bottles or a full container load, they cannot export their wine to the UK without this documentation. The costs are substantial; Lab and Export Analysis is $140, Wine Australia charge $40 to produce a VI1, resulting in a grand total of $180 - per product.  On top of this, each producer has to pay for shipping approval at $25, along with consolidation and port fees which sit at around $300 per shipment.

Our bond had a recent visit from the Food Standards Agency who ‘froze’ a full pallet of John’s Blend Shiraz as they did not have an export slip label on each bottle. This label provides importer details, offering traceability should there be an issue with the content. Why is this necessary when each wine has a full laboratory analysis by way of a VI1? Our bond charged us 50 pence per bottle to add our sticker!

We have no trade deal with the EU, but VI1s are out of the window and currently, there is no requirement to provide import stickers. Where is the traceability and more importantly, where is the balance?

We have a trade deal with Australia however, VI1s are required as are import stickers on every bottle. Again, and to my point concerning Wine Australia – you are not helping your UK export market one iota… Did you take part in these discussions as the net result of this trade deal (from a wine perspective) is zero?

Despite the trials and tribulations, The Vinorium does not sit back and wait for the situation to improve. Instead, we are nimble, driven and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of coming out the other side on top. 

Today, as I write, I am sitting on circa £1.7 million of great wine, much of it from Australia. However, and understanding our customers like we do, this is not enough in terms of variety, which is staggering when you consider the value, the volume and the number of labels which we hold.

For certain, we are in a difficult place as we cannot deliver wines to our EU customers and much of our international trade business has not recovered from the pandemic and certainly post the fracas between Australia and China. Domestically we are strong, save for August which reported the worst sales figures in our history however, and if I were to draw any positivity, it appears that much of the UK went on holiday, and why not… I hope you had an incredible time and have returned revitalised. I, myself enjoyed the first two weeks away which is the first in a decade. Week one was spent catching up on home decorating duties and some serious gardening work followed by a week’s climbing on the West Coast of Scotland which puts the biggest smile on my face. Forget the continent (sorry) and spend time on the West Coast – it’s magical and beyond beautiful. But, take midge protection as the little buggers eat you alive!

Upon my return, I have been on a buying mission – I have been hoovering-up lots of small parcels which we will be unveiling over the coming weeks. This includes 1,000 bottles of old gems including mature parcels of Torbreck, Zippy’s Block, Two Hands Garden Series, Kaesler, Mitolo, d’Arenberg to name a few. These will be arriving in dribs and drabs and will be QC’d before they are set live for sale. I also plan to sample a few of the older wines as I am keen to see how they have developed. We will not be releasing all the stock in one email. Instead, they will be released at an unrushed pace during September. We commence with the below offer from Branson Coach House… 

We have also purchased three wines from Margaret River producer, Pierro (what a beautiful Chardonnay – cracking reds too) – I will be re-sampling these on Monday. I couldn’t resist the three Chardonnays from US producer, Gavin Chanin who has been missing off our list for far too long. His Sanford and Benedict is a dream come true. From New Zealand comes an old favourite, Ma Maison Pinot Noir, we purchased all of their 2016 stocks as it’s particularly good. I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle at the weekend and opened another for the team to sample on Monday; one scored the wine 98 and another 99. High praise indeed. Personally, I wouldn’t be so generous however, I will say that it’s a beautiful wine for the money. The bottle age provides a core of ripe autumnal fruits cloaked in supple tannins. It’s lavish, yet beautifully controlled – expansive and just a joy. This will be released next week. There are others too (many more in fact) and a string of samples coming across from Spain, who would have thought it…

Right, I shall leave you in peace.

As ever, keep safe and well and thank you for your continued support.

Stu

 
 
 

I will hand you over to Natalie, our Zalto brand manager who provides the current situation regarding our order and Zalto’s interesting approach for the future…

It has been eight weeks since we last updated you all on the current situation with Zalto glassware.  As we previously mentioned, Austria were particularly badly hit by ongoing lockdowns which took their toll on the team hand-blowing at Zalto. These lockdowns were further compounded when Zalto were forced to shut down one of their two furnaces for reconstruction, a process which is long and slow. Zalto were back up and running in early July but six months of zero production is proving almost impossible to recover from.

I had a long conversation with the UK importer following the bank holiday weekend and we are now hopeful (said with fingers firmly crossed) that news of our order being ready to leave will be received within the next few weeks.  Our order, which was placed in March, is finally sitting at the top of the pile and Zalto will communicate as soon as this is ready to go. As soon as we hear from them, we will release the glasses for pre-order on our website. We’ve been asked for this by many customers (and lots of new enquiries) over the past few months, but we have been reluctant to offer any glassware for presale, until we have a confirmed delivery date.

However, the news for future stock after this delivery is looking less positive.  We placed an additional order a few months ago with the hope that we might receive more stock before Christmas, but this is looking highly unlikely. Zalto have always sold every glass they produce and previously turned all orders around within 3-4 weeks. This is a specialist, handmade product and simply extending production is not possible. They are currently forecasting that stocks for next year will be released on a strict allocation basis with stocks at least 20% lower than 2019. The result of this huge decrease in availability will be a price increase at a level which we view as simply bonkers.

 

"We have always been the most competitive place to purchase Zalto from, we have squeezed our margins in order to offer these glasses to our customers at a price which we believe offers great value."

 

We have always been the most competitive place to purchase Zalto from, we have squeezed our margins in order to offer these glasses to our customers at a price which we believe offers great value. The current RRP for a Zalto Bordeaux glass is in the region of £40.00 but they anticipate this increasing to £50.00 from 2022. This is a huge increase and will almost certainly mean that many customers can no longer stretch to owning these glasses. I suppose it’s one way of reducing sales, which is entirely their aim.

We are yet to see the confirmed prices going forward but we do know that Zalto glassware will continue to be as scarce as unicorns this year. Our next delivery will be the last before Christmas and we know of many other retailers who will not be seeing any stock this side of the year end. We would suggest that if you want to get your hands on these glasses, you jump in as soon as we release our stock. The next delivery could be quite a while away and at much higher prices…

 
 

Branson Coach House

The Coach House vineyard was the first estate vineyard purchased by Two Hands in 2002. Historically, this wine was labelled under its own estate bottling called Branson Coach House Block however, in 2006, this became part of the Two Hands portfolio with its very own Single Vineyard wine – the 2019 vintage has just received a glowing review from Joe Czerwinski (Robert Parker.com) and a score of 98 points.

Located just outside the small village of Greenock in the rolling Western Ranges of the Barossa Valley, this is arguably some of the best viticultural land in the Barossa. The vineyard was first planted in the early to mid 1990s and now at 30 years of age, the Shiraz vines are really starting to reach maturity. Situated at 260m above sea level, the vines have their roots dug into classic Greenock red-brown earth which is high, iron rich soil with a high clay content over a base geology of limestone and sandstone. The guys from Two Hands declare that wine produced from this site is always rich in fruit showing shades of blackberry with tannins that are regal and firm.

It's been several years since we last purchased a parcel – this particular one was owned by LCB and has been stored at their bonded facility for the past 10-15 years. It’s not huge (156 bottles in total) but it does provide you with the opportunity to purchase the ‘original’ wine in fine condition. We have a tiny amount of their ‘Rare’ Shiraz spanning two vintages with the remainder representing the final, 2005 vintage (white label).

 

2002 Branson Coach House Block ‘Rare’ Shiraz

97 Points - Robert Parker "Even bigger than the Greenock Block, but revealing more complexity as well as elegance is the stunning 2002 Shiraz Coach House, which sees 10% new American oak. Aromas and flavors of blackberries, plums, figs, creme de cassis, graphite, smoky new oak, bacon fat, and prunes are present in this dense, full-bodied effort. Monstrous in the mouth, with no hard edges, this is the type of wine that seemingly only Australia is capable of producing."

£49.95 per bottle

15 bottles available

 

2004 Branson Coach House Block ‘Rare’ Shiraz

Robert Parker "The stunning 2004 Shiraz Coach House Block reveals a deep ruby/purple hue and plenty of blackberry, cassis, pepper, and smoky, toasty oak flavors. It is an in-your-face wine with beautiful purity as well as intensity."

£49.95 per bottle

Last few bottles remain

 

2005 Branson Coach House Greenock Block Shiraz

Jay Miller (RobertParker.com) "The 2005 Shiraz “Greenock Block” is opaque purple-colored with aromas of pain grille, black pepper, scorched earth, blueberry compote, and blackberry liqueur. Intense and layered, this full-bodied effort packs a punch. There are gobs of fruit and plenty of tannin under the surface. This unsubtle but powerful wine can be cellared for several years and will drink well through 2020."

£37.50 per bottle

 
 

Two Hands: Singled Out

Joe Czerwinski released (31 August) his review of wines from South Australia with the 2016 Two Hands My Hands receiving podium gold with a glowing review and 99 points. As mentioned above, the 2019 Coach House Block received 98 points. Much of the review focused on current releases, 2019 and 2020 which were interesting to read. We find reviewer(s) opinions versus our own assessments fascinating – After all, Australian wine is our bread and butter, but we keep these opinions strictly in-house…

We approve of Joe’s general assessment of the Two Hands range; “Although I suspect the 99 point 2016 My Hands will garner a fair bit of attention, this is an impressive line-up of 2019s from Two Hands, including some fine efforts in the Garden range - and a couple that fall short, perhaps showing the unevenness of the vintage. The Garden wines will be more widely available than the Block wines, yet if you can identify which Blocks you're likely to prefer, my advice is to go the extra mile for them, as they express more site specificity and individual character.”

We have provided Joe’s tasting notes for each wine…

Holy Grail

“While the 2019 Holy Grail Seppeltsfield Road Seppeltsfield Shiraz lacks the compelling richness of the previous vintage or the intoxicating complexity of the Coach House Block, it's still a fabulous wine. Slightly caramelized red raspberries lead the way, joined by blueberries and lent a savory touch through hints of black olives and licorice. It's medium to full-bodied, ripe and generous, with a lush, velvety feel and a lingering, harmonious and even elegant finish that never seems heavy or overdone, sip after sip.”

£49.95 per bottle
or £236.35 per case of 6 In Bond

Yacca Block

“The deep, densely colored 2019 Yacca Block Menglers Hill Shiraz starts off with notes of bay leaf and sage, develops luscious dark-fruit notes of blueberries and blackberries, then turns more savory—black olives and licorice—on the finish. It's full-bodied, rich and concentrated yet remains balanced and refreshing on the long finish. One of the more complex and balanced of the Block wines most vintages, it appears to be a pretty consistent vineyard.”

£49.95 per bottle
or £236.35 per case of 6 In Bond

Secret Block

“Faint whiffs of woodsmoke mark the nose of the 2019 Secret Block Wildlife Road Moppa Hills Shiraz, adding a welcome savory, meaty note to the bold blackberry and blueberry fruit. It's medium to full-bodied, concentrated and ripe without being over the top at all. Nicely proportioned and balanced, with a silky-velvety feel and a long, harmonious finish, this should drink well for at least a decade or so.”

£49.95 per bottle
or £236.35 per case of 6 In Bond

Waterfall Block

“One of the bigger, more powerful of the Block wines this vintage, the 2019 Waterfall Block Waterfall Gully Road Burnside Shiraz is a full-bodied, velvety, well-behaved beast of a wine. Swirls of mixed berries combine with mocha and dark chocolate, finishing with layers of flavor and texture. While its elevated alcohol (it's listed at 14.9% alcohol) may mean it's not quite as long-lived as some of the other 2019 bottlings, it should still go 10 years easily.”

£49.95 per bottle
or £236.35 per case of 6 In Bond

View the full and new Two Hands collection
It’s physical and available by-the-bottle

 
 
 
 
 

2018 Leeuwin Art Series
Chardonnay Release

The 2018 Art Series Chardonnay features a painting entitled “Soul Search'' by New York-based Australian artist Virginia Cuppaidge, whose art also adorned the label of our 2005 Art Series Chardonnay.

Watch the release video of the 2018 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay’

 
 
 

The Art of Great Winemaking:

We are incredibly excited to release the
2018 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay.

It’s in stock and ready for dispatch

 

£70.95 per bottle

The Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay is a timeless representation of the Margaret River region and to many, Australia’s most iconic wine. The unirrigated Block 20 Vineyard is planted with the Gin Gin clone and is the mother vineyard for Margaret River Chardonnay. Now more than 40 years old, many cuttings from this vineyard were used to establish the region’s wineries, with the pristine fruit definition and winemaking philosophies of Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay inspiring other local producers to follow suit.

For years, demand both domestically and internationally has always outweighed availability with global importers guarding their allocations. Many, adopting the Bordeaux négociant way of selling, by insisting on buyers taking larger quantities of the lesser famed Prelude Chardonnay, which has kept us away from offering their wines.

The ‘new’ UK importer is a good friend of The Vinorium and kindly provided a substantial allocation (relative for such a revered wine). We will be offering their ‘new’ Art Series Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in due course (we have purchased 168 bottles of each wine) however, do shout if you wish to jump the queue…

“Let’s put it this way. This is the closest I have come to awarding a wine 100 points...Stellar wine from a stellar vintage. The remarkable this is that this is a wine 100 percent barrel fermented in new French oak barriques with regular lees stirring for 11 months – and it certainly doesn’t taste excessive, or even slightly oak. It has such high-fidelity purity with complex seductive aromatics of vanilla bean and light oatmeal with a cutting minerality and spicy lift. But the palate, oh the palate. This is where things start to explode. Power, poise and persistence with a dry savouriness balancing the intense ripe fruit. It is such a long finish with an ever so slightly, charry finish completing a remarkable wine”.

99-plus/100

Ray Jordan, The West Australian, 27 February 2021

"Benchmark pedigree Margaret River chardonnay from the perfect 2018 vintage. Kaffir leaf, ocean spray, nectarine, yellow peach, custard apple and white peach are the start. Saffron curls, vanilla pod and freshly grated nutmeg frame saline acidity, crouched and coiled. Length of flavour extends across the palate in an endless procession of texture and complexity. All of the power, grace and excellence of previous years is here, amplified.”

98 points, Top Place Chardonnay Varietal Award

Erin Larkin, 2022 Halliday Wine Companion, August 2021

“Very light colour, remarkable for a 4-year-old wine. The bouquet is complex and yet very fresh and restrained, showing captivating nougat aromas which lead into a concentrated, powerful yet elegant palate. Absolutely delicious array of flavours. Lemon drops, honey and myriad other aromas and flavours. Tremendous power and persistence. A sensational chardonnay.”

98/100

Huon Hooke, The Real Review, 27 February 2021

“Sheer brilliance. Fragrant, to the point of lily blossom florals. Brilliant citrus cut of pure white lemon, even an exotic tint of pineapple. Sensational depth of white peach. Oak is magically entwined in its fibers, providing texture and substance to the weave yet never showing on the surface. Crystalline acidity of astonishing energy and longevity. A core of power and concentration that characterises both Leeuwin and Margaret River. It hovers, motionless, for minutes.”

98 points

Tyson Stelzer, WBM, June 2021

“This was the wine which took Australian Chardonnay from the dark ages of oak-embalmed curiosities or simple sunshine in the bottle to wines of supreme quality, able to sit comfortably with the great chardonnays of the world. For a time, it stood head and shoulders above anything else we could produce. These days, it has peers, from Margaret River and further afield, but it has never stumbled. It has remained as one of our absolute finest chardonnays to this day, and this latest release will only confirm that. Whether or not it is the very best chardonnay made in Australia is largely personal preference at this level, but there is no questioning that it is always a favourite. And a wine which always improves even further with time in the cellar. Fermentation in French oak and then a further 11 months in barrel. This release, obviously very young, explodes with stonefruit, nectarines, grilled nuts, peaches and a hint of vanilla oak, but it is well integrated and quite transparent. A note of honey emerges on the finish. The creamy, supple, seamless texture is a highlight and promises to become ever more thrilling in the coming years. It is already showing some early complexity and the flick of acidity carries it through to the extremely long finish, a finish which never drops in intensity. A wine which confidently walks the tightrope between elegance and sheer power but at all times, as with everything to do with this wine, it is impeccably balanced. 2018 seems yet another truly brilliant vintage in the region – but it seems that it almost always is. This scintillating chardonnay will improve in the coming years (be in no hurry). A wine which deserves a score somewhere around the 98 to 100. I have gone 98, only because I have no doubt it is going to get even better.”

98 points

Ken Gargett, WinePilot.com, March 2021