Following the merger of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association and English Wine Producers, the industry’s membership organisation Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) has big ambitions for the English Wine Week and Welsh Wine Week campaigns.

Taking place from Saturday 26 May till Sunday 3 June 2018 this will be the first campaign since the two industry organisations merged. Vineyard caught up with Julia Trustram Eve managing director at WineGB to find out more about English Wine Week and Welsh Wine Week and how both producers and the trade can be involved.

Q: Where did it all begin?

A: It started off around 1999 with a collaborative initiative proposed by Camel Valley’s Bob Lindo and the late Charles Cunningham from Wooldings Vineyard. They came up with the concept of finding a suitable week and using it to encourage other vineyards to open their doors to the public. With a focus on increasing footfall and awareness of the industry it was hoped that everyone participating would benefit and sell more wines.

Q: How has the campaign evolved?

A: Around five years ago we started to notice that the trade was picking up on English Wine Week because it provided a great opportunity for retailers and restaurants to put some focus on the English and Welsh wines they stocked. We still encourage the vineyards to play a proactive role in opening to the public, but with so many producers already having established tourism offerings there is now more which can be done in collaboration with trade customers to make the week special and to engage with new customers.

Q: What are the benefits?

A: Our job at WineGB is to create the awareness and the engagement and then it is for the vineyards and trade participating to increase the sales.

We know that English Wine Week (EWW) and Welsh Wine Week are both really good conduits to selling more wine. From the EWW survey we did last year, the majority of vineyards report that sales increase during the week and also continued to be high for several weeks after the campaign finished. For instance, the week has always be timed so that it is close to beginning of summer to tie into tourism and at a time when people are waking up to what there is to do on their door.

The press and social media created the buzz which in turn developed an element of sustainability with overall brand and industry awareness facilitating maintainable sales.

Q: What are the simplest things producers can do?

A: Showcase a different wine each day, organise a promotion, arrange an open day if you are not already open to the public, or if you are, ramp up the number of tours or put on themed events.

Doing something different and inviting people to the vineyard even just for a few days over the bank holiday offers an opportunity for current or potential customers to see where the grapes are grown and how the wines are produced. One should never underestimate the value of discovery, word of mouth and sharing the story. Visitors will take away a great memory and when they are drinking the wine with friends they have something to talk about. It can help to build brand loyalty and future sales.

Q: How can producers encourage trade customers to be involved?

A: Producers know their customers, the nature of their businesses and they can highlight the benefits of taking part. Last year there were an increasing number of producers who started conversation with trade customers in advanced to make sure English Wine Week was in their calendar.

Producers could provide a few sample bottles so that the wines can be on tasting, either in a wine of the week type showcase or, for the on-trade, front of house staff could offer a small taster as people sit down. Allowing customers to purchase English or Welsh wines by-the-glass for the week can also be very effective.

We always emphasise that taking part shouldn’t cost a fortune. WineGB can supply trade outlets with point of sales packs and media starter kits; it is mainly about making more noise than normal and enabling more customers to access English or Welsh wine who haven’t before.

Q: What are the simplest things the trade can do?

A: It is great to see how much the trade have already got behind English and Welsh wines, with a lot of them putting their heart and soul into promoting the local wines by engaging with customers.

The retailer sector love it because it provides an excuse to celebrate English and Welsh wines. Independent wine merchant, Duncan Murray Wines, has an instore tasting every Saturday morning and during English Wine Week he will organise an English themed wine tasting and often he will sell out of the wines on tasting.

The week doesn’t need to be about discounting. If retailers are looking to offer a bottle promotion perhaps customers could get a free map of the vineyards in the UK instead of money off. For those located near vineyards, why not bring the winemaker in to host a special instore tasting or arrange an exclusive visit with loyal customers to do a tour of the vineyards. If you are in a fortunate position with other food or drink producers close by why not do a local wine and cheese pairing or follow a grape and grain theme.

Retailers who supply local on-trade could link up with a local restaurant and a local vineyard to arrange a winemaker’s dinner themed evening which would to provide an informative evening and a strong story for the local press to get behind.

Q: How can producers and trade interact with the press?

A: The bank holiday weekend is a great time to engage with local media, especially for those vineyards or trade outlets who are teaming up with other local businesses. It should be quite easy to tap into the local press.

As well as publicising all the events organised over the week, we can help producers who are WineGB members to source local media contacts and we will be including a template press release in the media tool kit for those who are unsure where to begin when approaching the press. They will be able to paste in their own activities and it will provide a broad explanation about English Wine Week and Welsh Wine Week. 

It is also about being creative and thinking outside the box to generate press attention. One idea in the media toolkit, for instance, is to contact the local TV weather station to see if they want to report from the vineyard. The WineGB Award results will also be released during the week to tie in nicely with engaging with the press and social media during the week.

Q: What resources will WineGB be providing?

A: We have a marketing tool kit which WineGB members and trade will have access to. The new branding will be unveiled soon and as the new organisation grows and develops there will be new services to help promote English Wine Week and Welsh Wine Week and the range of point of sale will also be redeveloped.

Popular point of sales items in the past have been the window stickers, bunting and neck tags. We may revert to the gift tags neck tags as now we have gold in the branding we can incorporate gold ribbon which will look premium and will hopefully appeal to high end wine merchants. We are very mindful that there is a broad spectrum of outlets and we want the point of sale to be able to resonate with both customers and sellers while reflecting what the industry and WineGB is about. We will have a lot of fun with it as we move forwards.