Room to think outside the box

Passionate about helping English and Welsh wine producers to interact with more customers, the Wine Pantry is offering its tasting room at Borough Market, London for hire free of charge one day per week throughout February and March 2018.

What started as a small shop established by Julia Stafford, the Wine Pantry has always been a driving force in spreading the message about home-grown wines and Julia has organised many events over the years to ensure that English wine is made more accessible and approachable to new customers.

With its new tasting room having officially launched in September 2017, Julia is now hoping that by offering the space free of charge, it will encourage producers to think outside the box when it comes to new marketing ideas and engaging with potential customers.

“I have always intended to create an English wine centre in London,” said Julia Stafford, owner of the Wine Pantry. “Borough Market is a good combination of local people, businesses and tourists and since opening we have hosted an event for Bolney Wine Estate and Matthew Jukes has also used the space to taste 100 English wines.”

Pop-ups, especially in London, have become a proven way to connect with new markets and customers. Pop-ups also have the potential to be great revenue makers. For smaller vineyards with limited time, budgets and labour, the space at Borough Market offers the opportunity to host a pop-up without being tied in for days, weeks or months.

“We would love to do something with anyone who produces wine from grapes grown in England and Wales,” said Julia. “We have already had several producers contact us. If you want to use it to invite press and do a free tasting, or sell tickets to the public, there isn’t a strict formula for what to do with the space.”

From ticketed events where customers can purchase by the glass, by the bottle, or by the case for delivery after the event, it is about getting customers to experience things away from the vineyard as well as exploring what vineyards can bring, other than their wine, to stand out and attract new customers.

“They could do anything with the space, from simply selling the wine, to hosting a secret cinema, or organising a dinner with a restaurant; for instance, in the past we have linked with Hawksmoor,” said Julia. “I just want producers to stop thinking they need to give stock away to promote it. It is damaging the industry for those who are trying to sell it and actually consumers are more likely to turn up and value the wine having paid for it.”

Capacity for 100 people standing or 60 people seated, the centre-of-London-based space is available for dry hire, although to support smaller producers Julia would try to ensure that the Wine Pantry team was on hand to assist with events.

“Our English wine producers need to have more interaction direct with consumers outside the vineyard,” said Julia. “The more wines which come onto the scene the more confusing it is for the consumers and I want to encourage vineyards to explore the creative side of reaching out. I want them to know there is a space to show off their wines without having to go to big trade shows and events.”

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