George Martin is the Wine Buying Manager, looking after Italy, England, Sparkling, Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe for Ocado Retail Ltd.

Ocado Retail is a joint venture between M&S and Ocado Group. They are responsible for and Ocado Zoom, their fast-growing, same-day grocery service. The unique structure enables them to outperform the market, combining award-winning customer service and unrivalled customer data; world-leading technology and logistics from Ocado Group, and unrivalled product development from M&S.

As an online supermarket the customer base is incredibly broad and made up of people from an enormous amount of different backgrounds. They’ve found that the wine offering is loved by customers who enjoy having the convenience of a major supermarket and the individuality of a specialist retailer.

France and New Zealand are currently the biggest categories with Sparkling and Rosé just behind. But Italy, Portugal and our Low Alcohol ranges have seen consistent growth in recent years.

Do you stock/list English and/or Welsh Wines?

Yes, at the moment we have wines from producers from all over the UK including; Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Louis Pommery England, Hambledon, Hattingley Valley, Woodchurch and The Uncommon to name a few. 

What are you looking for when considering new wines to list?

We look for quality above everything else when listing new wines. Offering our customers the best value possible is something we place a huge amount of focus on. But with the size of our range we can also afford to take chances on innovative producers so we’re able to show our customers some really eye-catching and unique wines that they might not find in other retailers.

What do you expect a suppler/producer to supply to you in advance?

We work very closely with all our suppliers to ensure that our visions are aligned and that Ocado is the right place for their wines. Being open and honest on commercials and allocations from the start is, of course, crucial but also we expect suppliers to come to the table with some clear goals we can work towards.

Do you have a minimum drop for a listing?

We don’t tend to specify minimum allocations, and are more than happy to work with producers on wines we feel are of a superior quality. That said, we do like to make sure that the allocations and ordering methods work for everyone involved.

Broadly, what do you think of English/Welsh wines?

I’ve previously done a vintage in England so I’m perhaps a little biased! But from what I’ve seen over the past few years, the quality is improving massively with each passing vintage. It’s obviously nice to see larger producers being able to compete with the Champagne houses. But it’s equally exciting that English and Welsh producers are using their status as a developing wine nation to their advantage, and experimenting with a vast amount of varieties and production methods.

What are English and Welsh producers doing well?

English and Welsh producers seem to be leveraging a lot of the received knowledge from traditional method sparkling winemaking, but also developing a style all of their own. Many producers are building on the Champagne practices to enhance the character and profile of their wines – with a large degree of success across the board.

Being experimental and using a “test and learn” approach appears to be key to England’s personality as a wine destination.

What should they be considering/thinking/doing?

Although the quality of the still wines is rapidly improving, I think in many ways they have a long way to go before they can compete with European rivals on price point and taste. In the past two years alone though we’ve seen some great red wines starting to be produced alongside the more established whites and rosés, however, so it won’t be long before the balance starts to shift.

What trends do you discern in wine sales and is there anything that English and Welsh viticulturists and vinifers should be addressing?

English and Welsh Sparkling Wine is such a growth category that I’d encourage any British producer to make sure they keep refining and developing the processes they already have in place to make sure they can compete on quality as more producers enter the market. Other categories which are growing include Rosé and single serve formats so it’s always worth bearing in mind whether it’s possible to add another wine to their existing range as a point of difference.

Is there anything you would like to say to English and Welsh winemakers and producers?

I would encourage any English or Welsh producer to get in touch and send in samples if they are interested in working with Ocado. We have a unique advantage over other retailers in being able to work with producers both big and small due to the size of our range – so please get in touch for a chat!