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Blind spot - direct funding of wine

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Thank you - a really interesting piece. Interesting that TWS feels it needs to fund the fruit and thus both takes on the cash flow responsibility and assumes the risk for the liquid produced from that fruit. Having now removed the cost of cash and taken that risk of product I wonder what that might mean for the price charged per bottle? I would expect it to reduce. I wonder whether @Freddy might talk us through the commercial and vinous logic behind this decision?

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And just found part of the answer:
https://www.thewinesociety.com/discover/explore/grower-stories/the-blind-spot-reimagined

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Excellant - thanks!

This story has been puzzling me.

I don’t know the business actually works, but I but think it’s like this

Winery A grows the grapes or buys in the grapes and then tries to sell them. TWS taste the wines at trade shows or the winery and buys the ones it likes. Winery A takes all the financial risk.

Previously for Blind Spot, the wines were sought out by TWS’s ‘man-on-the spot’, tasted by TWS and if liked, the ‘man-on-the spot’ buys the wine, and sells them to TWS.

New system is ‘man-on-the spot’ finds vineyards he thinks has potential and if TWS agrees, TWS pays the ‘man-on-the spot’ to buy the grapes. Someone then has to make the wine (and presumably TWS pays them to do so) and takes the resulting wine.

What if the promise of those grapes is not realised in the winemaking?

I am not clear what advantage the new system has, but I do not have a good head for business, and I am sure TWS has thought this out carefully, but it seems the risk is all on TWS
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Maybe the advantage is that the wine is bulk shipped to the UK and a few pennies are shaved off the cost? Its not possible to tell, there’s only a picture of the front label and the size/quality is not good enough to read the smaller text on the label.

Currently TWS shows 4 Australian Shiraz varietals (not including the fizz) that are cheaper than the new Blind Spot Shiraz.

I’ve had three different Blind Spot wines in the past and have not wanted to buy more.

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Hi @Robin63, Freddy is currently on annual leave for a few days, but we will pass your question on to him when he is back!

Edit: And just a note that Freddy will be in discussion with Blind Spot winemaker Mac Forbes via Instagram Live next Monday 17th at 12pm, if anyone who has Instagram would like to have a watch to find out a bit more: https://www.instagram.com/freddythewinebuyer/

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Kelly, many thanks.

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I’ve only tried one, the Touriga Nacional, and likewise it didn’t encourage me to explore further. Maybe a little unfair because it reviewed well but maybe I just preferred the authentic Portuguese versions and should give one of the other manifestations one more try.

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@peterm. I think you hit it on the head when you reference where the risk lies - both financial and product quality. Essentially, we are vertically integrating by taking ownership of the grape rather than the resulting liquid. That does give us greater security of supply and more control over what eventually goes into the bottle but with that comes the risk that the grapes produce the quality of wine expected. If TWS contracts to take the harvest before the grapes are produced that increases the risk further (not sure how TWS will contract with the vineyards). Of course, TWS also ties up more capital also, which is both a cash flow risk itself and an opportunity cost if other offers come up that the buyers cannot exploit. Will be interesting to see what Freddy says.

The risk to us, as members, is that the WS will feel an obligation to promote the wine.

How is promoting a wine a risk?

Conflict of interest. It is almost too appropriate that the name of the series corresponds to the WS’s perceptions of the system.

I’m sorry I don’t understand the conflict of interest here, trying to but I don’t see it. Yes the society is funding the grapes but how different is it compared to promoting wines where the buyer is instrumental in the blending of the wine?

I am finding this all too complicated. I like to buy a wine that the person who has grown the grapes also makes the wine and bottles it. All this blind spot funding rather goes over my head.

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I’m not always sold on this as the best way.

Knowing how to best grow grapes does not automatically make you good at making wine and vice versa. A lot of my favourite wines are negociant wines. This is not to say that these wine makers do not have long term relationships with the growers and get to know the grapes and how best to work with them. While it tells a good story, being good at one thing does not automatically make you good at the other.

Mac Forbes, the wine maker for the Blind Spot series makes some excellent wines. His Pinot Noir are very fresh and restrained and some of his “experimental” wines have been amazing (unfortunately most of them are too in demand to make it to the UK any more. This frustrates me as I’d really like to try Product – Mac Forbes). I really wish I’d bought more (and/or kept some) when he did a Nebbiolo.

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There are enough out there to keep me going…

I do not want the buyer to be directly involved in any stage of the production. It is inevitable that someone (at least someone who is a professional) who has helped to design/produce something thinks it is well done and that others will like it. I don’t think a WS buyer will say that a wine is good when he thinks that it is not. But I do think that a buyer should provide a second, outside view of whether the wine is successful. (I know that when I have written articles, etc., I want an editor or some outside reader to judge and if necessary advise if I have communicated what I want to communicate and if it is worth communicating, and I prefer to read articles which have had this check.) And I want to be sure that there is no implied commitment to buy a particular wine.

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I can’t remember any specific examples, but I think some of the buyers have an active (leading) part in blending a few TWS wines. Might be more common than you realise.

Also I might be wrong, but this particular situation comes across as TWS backing the winemaker - letting him find and select the right grapes then make the wine for TWS rather than active involvement in the production.

However, I agree that if TWS have agreed purchase of the grapes, they might then find it very hard to back out and not try and sell it, even if it falls short of expectations. I don’t anticipate that happening with Mac Forbes, but hey, you never know.

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That’s what I thought. Providing the capital for the winemaker to source and buy the grapes.

I’d be interested to know if this happens to some extent with some of the Exhibition and Society wines. Are some contrasted to provide the wine every year so if quality varies the Society is still contracted to buy it.

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I think you are right about some of the WS wines, and I never buy any of them without tasting.